Socialist Worker

Testing flops and firms profit from the virus

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2717

Testing for Covid

Testing for Covid


The latest test and trace figures for England, released on Thursday, are another record of disaster.

They show that 72.4 percent of close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 were reached in the week ending 29 July.

This was down from 76.2 percent in the previous week.

The system, run by privatisers such as Serco and Sitel, is grossly inadequate.

English councils with the highest infection rates have now launched their own contact-tracing operation.

Blackburn with Darwen council in Lancashire established its own model on Tuesday when its public health chief said national test and trace was “simply not tracing enough cases and contacts fast enough”.

Contracts

Leaked information in July showed the national tracing service reaching only 52 percent of all close contacts.

Calderdale council in West Yorkshire, which has the sixth highest infection rate in England, says it hopes to launch its own team next week, while neighbouring Kirklees council said it was considering doing the same.

Campaign group We Own It says that the privatisers’ contracts end on 23 August.

It is urging people to call for the return of the service to local councils.

In addition it has been revealed that 50 million face masks purchased by the government from a private equity investment company cannot be used as they failed to meet basic safety requirements.

This emerged from documents filed as part of a legal challenge over Britain’s procurement of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic.

The private firms making a killing from Covid
The private firms making a killing from Covid
  Read More

The Department for Health and Social Care bought the FFP2 respirator masks as part of a £252 million contract with Ayanda Capital. It advertises that it specialises in “currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade financing”.

The firm is owned by the Horlick family via Milo Investments, a holding company registered in Mauritius.

Infected

Andrew Mills is a special adviser to trade minister Liz Truss.

He also sits on the board of Ayanda Capital.

The contract was the largest single deal published by the government as part of its PPE purchasing.

The Good Law Project says it represents wasted spending of at least £156 million.

And employers are also failing.

A Manchester postal worker has said staff are being put at risk after 15 people working in a sorting office have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Royal Mail centre on Oldham Road has remained open for business, despite a number of staff contracting the virus in the last week.

A member of staff, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had not been told to self-isolate, even though he had been in direct contact with those infected.

Prisoners

He said some workers had been contacted by the government's track and trace system, but other members of staff had not.

The worker told the Manchester Evening News that when he asked a manager about whether he should isolate, he was told he could, but that he would not be paid.

The worker says staff were informed when a colleague tested positive for the virus, but only some people have been told to self-isolate.

“We have been told we will only get sent home if we are contacted by the track and trace system.

“Some members of staff have had calls but a lot of the time there have been people like myself who have spent more time with that infected person, than the ones that have been told to go home.”

He added, “Some people are coming from shielding after living like prisoners for months, only for all this to kick off.

"They have been told they have to come in or they don't get paid and so they are frightened to death. Something needs doing about it.”

Trade unions should call immediate action in such cases.

To write to your council call to call for safe, publicly led contact tracing go to https://weownit.org.uk/tell-your-council-leader-you-want-safe-locally-led-test-and-trace

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