Socialist Worker

Tories’ dodgy tests will only spell more misery

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2716

failure to test will lead to more deaths

failure to test will lead to more deaths


The government is suggesting a second Covid-19 wave is about to hit Britain—but they aren’t doing nearly enough to prepare properly for a new onslaught.

With a large part of northern England now back under strict ­measures, Boris Johnson is reported to be considering a new lockdown regime for the whole country.

He was forced to back off from ­further easing social distancing ­measures last Friday. 

Services such as nail bars and bowling alleys were due to reopen their doors on Saturday but permission was dramatically pulled at the eleventh hour. 

Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak met to discuss options for a second lockdown, as the number of infections rose. 

The Sunday Times reported that the pair considered extending the ­shielding programme to all those between the ages of 50 and 70. 

Seriously

The Tories claim to be taking Covid-19 testing seriously and will introduce two new tests for Covid‑19 that can deliver results within 90 ­minutes across hospitals and care homes. 

Tories’ failure to test for virus will cost more lives
Tories’ failure to test for virus will cost more lives
  Read More

Yet no evaluation data has been published on these two new tests and experts warn that the government could be buying faulty equipment. 

“Repeatedly through the ­pandemic the government has raced ahead purchasing tests on the basis of manufacturer’s claims,” said Professor Jon Deeks from Birmingham University. 

“And they have found later when independent studies are done that the tests do not have adequate performance for use in the NHS.

Deeks, who is part of a team ­evaluating tests said, “The mistakes made in test purchasing have wasted millions of pounds as well as put lives at risk.” 

The Department for Health and Social Care said one of the new Covid-19 tests will be used across NHS hospitals from September and provided by firm DnaNudge. 

The other contract, provided by the Oxford Nanopore company, is due to release 450,000 tests. 

But Deeks said the tests were simply too unknown to be counted on. 

“We cannot emphasise how ­important it is to see independent evaluations of all tests before they are implemented.” 

The Tories had previously ­promised to rollout testing kits across care homes this month.

But local authorities learnt last Friday that the scheme was being delayed for weeks—until at least 7 September. This leaves hundreds of thousands of care home residents suffering from five months of social isolation and unable to receive visitors. 

And care home managers are reporting that they still can’t get hold of “regular” tests. Provider Care UK said it was finding it “increasingly difficult to access” testing.

Nadra Ahmed, executive chair of the National Care Association, called the government delays “disgraceful”.

"To all the relatives who have been told they can go and visit now safely, how do we do that?” 

The Tories don’t care about care home residents—they have let the virus run rampant through adult social care settings for months. 

Their latest half-hearted attempts at controlling the catastrophe will only lead to more misery.


Care home residents sacrificed

Care homes in England and their older residents were “thrown to the wolves” during the coronavirus crisis, according to a scathing parliamentary report.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed that the government had “thrown a protective ring around care homes”.

But the MPs’ report shows that’s a lie.

Almost 20,000 care home residents died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus between 2  March and 12 June. 

The committee said the crisis revealed the “tragic impact” of delays by successive governments to reform the social care sector, which has been subject to years of underfunding.

The committee said the government had “squandered” the opportunity to build up supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves in January and February, and changed the guidance on PPE in care homes 40 times—“leading to confusion”.

Volunteers

The changes seemed to be based on what the system could cope with, rather than clinical advice and “what was right” and without taking into account the “reality on the ground,” the MPs found.

Meg Hillier MP, the Labour chair of the committee, said, “The failure to provide adequate PPE or testing to the millions of staff and volunteers who risked their lives to help us through the first peak of the crisis is a sad, low moment in our national response. 

“Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves, and the virus has ravaged some of them.”

She also criticised the “bold and ambitious claims made by ministers about the roll out of test, track and trace that don’t match the reality” the lack of which meant that “vulnerable people surviving the first wave have been isolated for months.”

Charlie Kimber


Firms still give to the rich 

British companies have said in recent weeks that they will pay out more than £1 billion of dividend payments to shareholders.

BAE Systems last week announced it would start paying dividends again, worth about £300 million.

Packaging group Smurfit Kappa and property company Land Securities followed with similar boosts for the rich.

Analysis by Peel Hunt investment bankers suggests about 27 companies that cancelled dividends during the first half of the year are likely to restore payouts later in 2020. In total, about £25 billion of dividends are still pending before the end of the year across more than 150 of the top 350 companies.

Russ Mould, investment director at stockbroker AJ Bell, said the return of companies such as BAE, Smurfit and Land Securities to the dividend list “offers income‑seekers some grounds for hope”.

Dividend payments go overwhelmingly to people who are already very rich.

They are the ultimate form of unearned income.


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