Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 12, April 4, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Virus Testing Turnaround Illustrates the Government's Failure to Lead

Testing is a critically important measure that should be taken immediately, but the government is failing to do so. Journalists are so frustrated by the answers they are getting that some are considering boycotting government briefings.

Journalists had to repeat the question, time and again, "Why has Britain lagged the rest of the world in testing?" There has been no direct answer because there could not have been, and we are left with posturing and manoeuvring. Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to criticism of Britain's strategy by hailing screening as a solution to "unlock the puzzle" of coronavirus. The strategy announced on March 18 was for 25,000 tests to be carried out per day, but it has since transpired that this will not happen until mid April, while just 13,000 per day are currently being performed. By comparison, Germany is testing over 70,000 people daily.

Health experts are frustrated by the low testing rate in Britain. Prof Paul Cosford, Emeritus Medical Director of Public Health England (PHE), said that "everybody involved" is unhappy testing has not "got to the position yet that we need to get to". He said testing would hit 15,000 per day "imminently". Only 2,000 NHS frontline staff out of half a million in England have been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak began. Prof Cosford said the figure was "nowhere near where we need to get to but it's a good start".

Labour's Shami Chakrabarti said that the slow pace of testing showed "a lack of clarity of what the plan is and how it is going to be executed".

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of the Francis Crick research institute, said a Dunkirk-style effort was needed to co-ordinate smaller laboratories and increase test numbers.

Boris Johnson said that increased screening would be how Britain defeats the coronavirus. He unashamedly exclaimed: "I want to say a special word about testing, because it is so important, and as I have said for weeks and weeks, this is the way through. This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end."

The rainbow was originally for children to see when out for a walk that they were not alone, and that other children were at home too without the physical presence of their friends. It has now become more widespread symbolising the unity of everyone against the coronavirus. Children have also been encouraged to send pictures of rainbows to decorate the new hospitals, should they open, to make them more personal and friendly for the patients.

Such is the deception of someone in the ultimate position of power, exuding the confidence of sovereignty but unfit to rule in the people's name. It is this complacency at the highest level, with slowness to act, that has caused the disconcerted stances of everyone else.

The stance of the entire cabinet has been to deny the people the benefit of such measures as testing, and hence security, giving such cynical excuses as lack of materials such as swabs! Who does he think he is? Who does the Prime Minister expect to accept such insulting garbage? The government needs to get on, produce and distribute asap!

However, these tests are not yet ready for use and it is not clear when they will be. Dr Yvonne Doyle, PHE Medical Director, said during a Downing Street coronavirus briefing that the "intention" was for testing for front-line staff to increase from "thousands to hundreds of thousands within the coming weeks".

It is their outlook that has held them back. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now promised talks with industry figures, issuing what his department said was a "rallying call" to improve diagnostic capability. All of this is in response to the developing outlook of the people and to reassure them of why the ruling elite are "needed" to remain at the helm of an otherwise sinking ship.

The continuing shortfalls in swabs, reagents and testing kits have been seriously restricting the number of tests that NHS Trusts have been able to carry out. In just one example, it is reported that, while one Trust in the West Midlands had the capacity to test up to 300 people per day, it was actually testing only 20.

Meanwhile, Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge has used a new, much quicker Covid-19 test for staff and patients. Samba Two gives a result in just 90 minutes as opposed to 24 hours. It was adapted from an HIV test by a small Cambridge technology company. Tests could soon be rolled out widely if there were a will to do so.

Once again, it highlights the necessity of empowering the working class and people. It is only when their outlook trumps that of the ruling elite that things can get done. The working class from production, distribution and front-line use are shouting out loud, "Give us the tools and we will do the job!" The existing decision-makers, the status quo, are not reliable. The more control shifts towards the people, the better the outcome.


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