“Over the coming days we have a huge task on our hands to stop those who want to end the lockdown prematurely from succeeding. Put simply, it’s a fight to ensure that people are put before profit.”Richard Burgon MP.
By Richard Burgon MP
On Sunday, Boris Johnson will announce new measures to “ease” the lockdown.
I am very concerned that doing this prematurely threatens public safety and could lead to the loss of even more lives.
Why is the lockdown being eased now? It’s certainly not because everything is under control.
We still have thousands of new Coronavirus cases each day – almost 5,000 per day over the last week.
The shortage of PPE is still clear for all to see – and even more PPE is likely to be needed as more workers go back to their workplace.
It’s good that testing has gone up – but it’s still way short of what is needed. What’s more, the key to effective “tracking and tracing” of the virus is to have reduced the numbers of cases down to manageable levels, which still hasn’t been done.
And we are still seeing hundreds of new deaths per day. We not only have one of the highest death tolls in the world but the UK accounts for more than 10% of all deaths in the world – even though it has less than 1% of the world’s population.
Our high death rate wasn’t inevitable. It’s the result of failure after failure. Some countries have handled this so much better than our government has. For example, if the UK had South Korea’s ‘deaths per million people’ rate, then we’d have 29,000 fewer Coronavirus deaths. With Germany’s rate, we’d have around 23,000 fewer deaths.
I am very concerned that more failures over the coming days will lead to more loss of life and potentially even a second wave of the virus.
Of course, for far too many the lockdown is hitting incomes. But that means the government must come forward with more economic support including rent suspensions, full sick pay and social security at real living wage level. Cruel measures like the benefits cap on families with more than two children need to be scrapped immediately.
It’s clear that the furlough scheme needs to be extended too. Instead, the government is threatening to force people back to work by ending it. Ministers have even started talking of people being “addicted” to the economic support provided.
That sounds like the kind of disgraceful attempts to stigmatise benefit claimants as “scroungers” that we have seen too much of in recent years. We need to stand up to that – people have the right to have their incomes protected and not be threatened with poverty and unemployment because of a global health crisis.
Likewise, Tory MPs have been lining up to attack trade unions for simply doing their job of putting the safety of workers first. Outrageously, the government gave trade unions just a few hours to respond to its consultation papers on a safe return to work. That isn’t a serious attempt to engage with workers. It’s treating workers with contempt.
The TUC has put forward clear demands on the health and safety conditions that must be met before workers are asked to return to work. No one should be made to return to work until it’s safe to do so. As a movement, we need to stand up for all workers who, fearing for their safety, refuse to do so.
Over the coming days we have a huge task on our hands to stop those who want to end the lockdown prematurely from succeeding. Put simply, it’s a fight to ensure that people are put before profit.