Socialist Worker

Tories want workplaces to stay open as second wave of coronavirus looms

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2723

Testing centres have been overwhelmed as the Tories ration coronavirus tests

Testing centres have been overwhelmed as the Tories ration coronavirus tests (Pic: Tim Dennell/Flickr)


A second wave of coronavirus in Britain is imminent as cases continue to rise.

Some 4,322 cases of coronavirus were confirmed last Friday. It was the first time the daily total of positive daily tests has exceeded 4,000 since 8 May. A further 4,422 cases were confirmed last Saturday.

The government is in total disarray.

The Tories have failed to stop the spike in cases across Britain. Instead, they have responded to outbreaks by imposing local lockdown measures.

At least 13.5 million people, roughly one in five of the population, are currently facing local restrictions.

In Lancashire, Merseyside, parts of the Midlands, the north east and West Yorkshire tighter restrictions have been brought in.

New rules ban separate ­households from meeting at home or in private, and pubs and ­restaurants must shut early.

But they can remain open throughout the day. And schools and workplaces are staying open.

This has led many people to ­question why they can meet family members in pubs, but not at home.

The Tories are divided on the crisis. Boris Johnson opposes “bigger lockdown measures” and has said he will call for tighter social distancing instead.

But health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that Britain has reached the “tipping point” and refuses to rule out a full national lockdown.

The Tories hope that ­bringing in “circuit breakers” will stop the transmission of the virus.

Restrictions

These are short periods of ­tightened restrictions ­nationwide to slow transmission. But again, this will not include closing schools and workplaces.

A temporary two-week “circuit break” that closed bars and restaurants would see a drop in cases. But it would only be a short-term fix.

Johnson has said Britain is seeing an “inevitable” second wave of infections.

But it was not inevitable.

If the government had not rushed into the unsafe reopening of ­workplaces and schools, the virus would not have spread.

And if the Tories had invested in a properly functioning testing system, it would be easier to contain it. Instead, the testing system has collapsed.

A mobile coronavirus test centre in Solihull was closed last weekend. A “glitch” in the government’s online booking system meant it was unprepared for the 400 people who had booked in.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has ridiculously called for people to celebrate the “phenomenal success” of increasing test capacity.

But more than four out of five schools in England have pupils stuck at home because they cannot access Covid-19 tests.

Meanwhile Eton College paid a private provider to test all of its staff and students as they returned to school.


New care home cases ‘inevitable’ as test and trace system in chaos

Vulnerable people and care workers are bracing themselves for the second wave of coronavirus infections.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of industry body the National Care Association, said the virus is “beginning to move into care homes” again.

At least 15,000 deaths in care homes have been attributed to Covid-19, but the real figure is much higher. There have been almost 27,000 excess deaths in care homes since the pandemic began.

The government said last Friday that residents would be discharged from hospitals into care homes, but they should be isolated for 14 days.

Routine discharges from hospitals into care facilities was a major driver of deaths during the first wave of the pandemic.

Ahmed said workers and residents were still waiting five or six days for test results. And she added that “not many” care homes have facilities where residents can safely isolate for two weeks. In a bid to halt coronavirus transmission, many care homes have stopped visits from friends and family, causing distress to vulnerable people.

The government claims it is pumping £546 million into a winter infection control plan.

This will allow homes to hire extra permanent staff, pay workers’ wages when they are self-isolating and to secure exclusive access to agency staff.

The idea is to stop workers, many of whom work for agencies across multiple homes, transmitting the disease between facilities.

But the government isn’t doing enough to keep people safe.

Even care bosses are raging at the government’s failure to develop a robust test and trace system.

Mark Adams, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, said, “It is inevitable our staff will be exposed to the virus. The only thing we have to protect us is testing.

“The government had their chance to fix this but I can’t imagine how they could have messed it up more if they tried.”

The government claimed last week that care workers will get free supplies of masks, aprons and gloves this winter.

But so far, care home bosses are excluded from schemes to source large amounts of PPE. They say that, as a result, PPE costs have soared more than tenfold.

Sarah Bates


People Before Profit says protect jobs and safety

A coalition of trade unionists, campaigners and socialists are launching an emergency programme to fight the Tories’ plan to make working class people pay for the coronavirus crisis.

The People Before Profit group plans to launch its programme for jobs, services and safety at an online meeting next Tuesday, 29 September.

Speakers include left wing Labour MP John McDonnell, PCS civil service workers’ union general secretary Mark Serwotka and CWU communication workers’ union president Jane Loftus.

People Before Profit is demanding an extension of the furlough scheme for “at least 12 months” to stop the immediate threat of mass redundancies.

And it adds that “we will support any group of workers that strikes or occupies their workplace to defend jobs”.

The group is calling for a massive programme or green investment to make sure there’s no return to the “business as usual” of low paid jobs.

“We need to ‘re‑purpose’ industries like aviation, car production, engineering to urgently address the climate crisis, end dependency on fossil fuels and to provide a million climate jobs,” it says.

“Services like Royal Mail, rail, energy and water must be brought back into public ownership.” And it calls for a “massive transfer of resources from the rich” to pay for the programme.

People Before Profit supports strikes, protest and action to stop the Tories’ and bosses’ attacks, saying activists have to “build fighting unions” and show “solidarity with every fightback”.

The meeting is also backed by Disabled People Against Cuts, Extinction Rebellion York and local coronavirus action groups.

For details of the meeting on Tuesday go to bit.ly/PbP29Sept


NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’

NHS emergency services could be “overwhelmed by a huge spike” in virus cases, professor Chris Whitty warned this week.

The daily average number of people being admitted for coronavirus has risen from 59 to 178 in the past two weeks.

And if the NHS is overwhelmed with virus cases, patients with other health conditions will suffer.

Whitty said the rising virus cases could see “a reduction in treatment in other areas, in early diagnosis of disease and in prevention programme”.

The warning comes as panic grows among health workers about the impact of a second wave of Covid-19.

Emergency Nightingale hospitals, set up specifically to treat coronavirus patients, are on high alert.

Birmingham’s temporary Nightingale hospital has been put on standby to begin treating patients within days.

David Rosser from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust described high levels of stress among workers.

“The levels of anxiety among our staff is beyond anything I have experienced in over 30 years,” he said.


Fine threats from Hancock

Top Tories are encouraging us to report each other for breaches of coronavirus rules.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week that he would call the cops if he saw a neighbour flouting the rules.

This could include someone who was not self-isolating when they should be.

Hancock added that “everybody should” report on their neighbours.

People face fines of up to £10,000 for breaches of the rules.

But some people are more likely to be hit with a fine than others.

Tory advisor Dominic Cummings still faces no action over his trip to Durham when he had virus symptoms in April.


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