Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 10, March 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Letter to the Editor

Government Flies in the Face of Social Responsibility towards the Coronavirus Pandemic

While lagging behind in the European league table of critical care beds, the UK is second in the military spending league.

In Britain, as in many other countries, the whole issue of the Development of COVID-19 exposes the arrangements that exist in our society, where the outlook has been the viewing of the problem of this pandemic as one of protecting the financial markets and capital, and presenting the solutions as belonging to individuals. The question has been posed as one of individual choice and not the responsibility of the government and authorities to deal with the crisis in the interests of all in society.

From the outset, scientists and medical experts were advising that Britain follow the example of China and its lockdown of provinces such as Wuhan and of making available all the medical equipment, safety equipment for staff and even new ITU units and new hospitals to contain the epidemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO), in declaring a world pandemic, then advised "strict comprehensive measures to contain the Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) and to protect the population, including quarantine, testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and direct population/community mobilisation." In other words, what was needed, and is still needed, is a pro-social response and action which places the human being at the centre of all considerations.

For example, people have been asked to "self-isolate" where they think they have shown symptoms of the disease. These calls range from suggesting that those with mild symptoms self-isolate for between 7 to 14 days, to the more extreme advice that the over 70s should self-isolate for at least 12 weeks. Such "advice" is so arbitrary and becomes incoherent set against the enormity of the problems created by the exponential developments of this virus and the disaster it leaves in its wake. Instead of heeding the advice of the WHO to quarantine affected areas and to carry out immediate widespread testing of the whole population, the British government has flown in the face of what is necessary to protect the whole society, and still encourages people to act as individuals and to make up their own minds as to what course to follow.

This advice ignores the reality for so many who simply cannot follow it, including those who are homeless, or those who are self-employed and would need to choose between going to work and earning money for their families or staying at home to heed the government advice and thereby placing themselves in very real danger of not being able to afford food or their rent.

Not surprisingly, this has led to wide-spread panic and worry, including the "panic buying" of items at grocery stores and pharmacies. However, even this is blamed on the people, when in actual fact it is the neo-liberal supply chain that cannot cope.

Meanwhile, the government suddenly called this week for the maximum support to be given to essential care workers, such as medical and health care workers. In contrast to years of cutbacks to and privatisation of the NHS, suddenly resources have been found and the government has called on everyone to support them by, for instance, ensuring that there be schooling for the children of essential workers, and that whatever was needed should be done in order to support them. In so doing, it exposes that these arrangements were possible all along. So why are these arrangements not there as a norm?

The whole way in which the government has behaved exposes its retrogression and that it acts in an extremely reckless way when such a crisis occurs.

In the face of this, the people and workers' organisations have been fighting backand attempting to resolve the crisis in their favour.

An Education Worker, March 22, 2020


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