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‘The government doesn’t talk about Covid anymore’ — NHS chief

Covid is still a problem, but not according to the Tories
Issue 2801
Three stessed-looking NHS workers in blue uniforms rush around a hospital as they deal with Covid

NHS workers face even more Covid dangers thanks to the Tories

The number of available hospital beds in England is lower than any time since the start of the pandemic. But the Tories are acting as Covid “doesn’t exist anymore”. That’s the shocking conclusion drawn by one of Britain’s top health bosses. Head of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said this week that levels of coronavirus infection are far higher than expected.

In a thread of tweets, he painted a picture of the health service on the brink of a meltdown with the ending of Covid restrictions. He said the NHS is running “higher levels of risk than ever seen before”. Hopson said people should again be encouraged to socially distance and wear facemasks to protect the NHS. But, he added, the government “doesn’t seem to want to talk about coronavirus any more”.

More than 70,000 health staff are off sick, 40 percent with Covid, while the number of patients in hospital with the virus in England has doubled in recent weeks to almost 16,000. In addition there are 20,000 patients occupying hospital beds who are medically fit but cannot be discharged due to the pressures on social care. Hopson attributes this to at least a quarter of Britain’s 18,000 care homes having had recent Covid outbreaks.

And at least four terrible NHS records have recently been broken. The number of people waiting to start hospital treatment rose to 6.2 million in February. There were record high trolley waits in emergency departments, accident and emergency waits and ambulance response times.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said staff shortages were particularly affecting emergency departments. She said running A&E units was “like flying a plane with half the crew and three passengers to every seat. No airline would take off under those circumstances but we have to.” She added that the current strain on the NHS could be a “glimpse” of the “new normal”.

Slippery Sajid Javid

Health secretary Sajid Javid still has a lot of explaining to do about his tax-dodging. Javid, who was briefly chancellor just over two years ago, has admitted he had the special “non-dom” status for “some” of the two decades he spent working as an investment banker. It meant he could avoid tax on overseas earnings. 

Last week tax experts told the Financial Times newspaper that the fact that Javid was an international banker and his father was born in Pakistan would not be enough to entitle him to the privilege. Javid did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Before he went into politics, Javid worked for Chase Manhattan Bank and Deutsche Bank. He has also admitted that he held an offshore trust until he became a minister in 2012, after he became an MP. 

The statement did not make clear whether that trust included overseas earnings from his time as a non-dom. Any overseas earnings remitted to Britain by a non-dom are liable to tax. Anyone on benefits who had that degree of uncertainty about their money would be facing a brutal investigation. Why isn’t Javid?

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