The virus isn’t under control - but neither is this government’s lethal irresponsibility

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
6th May 2020

So Britain is now “leading the world” in Covid-19 deaths per hundred thousand.  The figure given during the government’s “Daily Show” this Wednesday was 30,076 - the highest number of deaths in Europe, by whichever statistical method you choose to use.  But when asked why this might be the case, not one of Boris Johnson’s ministers, “scientific” advisors, nor Johnson himself, will give a straight answer.
    They all repeat the exact same untruth: that if the number of deaths is higher in Britain, it is only because British statisticians are much better at counting than their European counterparts!  Yes, they are “the best in the world”!  And then they add patronisingly, that of course, we will have to wait “at least a year” before anyone can really analyse the “excess deaths” due to the virus - and thus be able to judge comparative death rates.
    In the meantime, we are meant to accept that the government has got everything absolutely right in this “best of all possible worlds”!  Whether it was the timing of the lock down, or the “protection of the NHS” - which, they add, is a resounding success, because, by now, only one third of critical care beds are occupied by Covid patients and what is more, the 4,000-bed Excel Nightingale can be mothballed!  It seems that this government’s Brexit madness hasn’t just meant leaving Europe, but leaving the real world.
    Presumably it is this evidence of their “success” that is going to be presented for the easing of the lock-down and for sending even more workers back to work next week, opening up construction sites, etc.,  thus giving this virus the chance to claim a lot more victims in the working class...

Making loads of money out of it

We were also told by Health Secretary Hancock that “the UK is now world leader in coronavirus testing” and that “we are miles ahead of South Korea now”!  Pity “we” are not miles ahead of South Korea when it comes to preventing the virus from spreading and thus killing so many people.
    Anyway, for the past four days the target for testing (100,000 per day) has been missed.  Apparently this is because people aren’t taking up the test.  But we are not told why.  Yet testing is fundamental to controlling the spread of the virus.  So what is going on?
    Could it have something to do with the unsuitability for the task of those who’ve been given the (private and lucrative!) contracts for organising this testing?  For instance, accounting firm Deloitte, which in turn has outsourced to those “usual suspects”, G4S, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots...?
    And today Johnson declared at his first PMQs (since his recovery from the virus), that 200,000 tests per day would be the new target!  So yet more booty for the likes of Boots and co!  And it should be noted that due to the “coronavirus emergency” none of these contracts is subject to any of the usual competitive tendering nor scrutiny.  So it is the ministers in Johnson’s government (and his Scientific Advisory Committee, SAGE!) who decide who to award and reward...

Once more, where is the PPE?

Which brings us to the PPE scandal.  Hancock and Johnson keep saying how “devastated” they are that some NHS and care home staff have not received a reliable supply.  In fact Johnson is “enraged”!  They’ve “moved heaven and earth, worked night and day” to get this right!  But somehow, PPE is still lacking everywhere.  And this has directly caused the death of those frontline healthcare “heroes”, over whom Johnson has dared to shed tears, because they did not have enough protection.
    But here again the dirty procurement process, determined by profit for the selected friends and friends of friends, is exposed.  From this week, NHS trusts have been instructed to stop buying their own PPE and ventilators.  The procurement is to be handled centrally with the likes of Deloitte in charge!  It’s already handling payroll, logistics and rotas for the laboratories doing testing, alongside pharmaceutical giants GSK and Astrazenica.
    On top of that, we hear that the SAGE committee has unnamed attendees, including Marc and Ben Warner.  And that their startup, “Faculty” (which “mines” personal data) and which was hired to work with the “Vote Leave” campaign, has already been awarded several new government contracts.  One can only guess why they are “helping” SAGE, beyond the straight nepotism and filthy lucre.
    All this goes to show that whatever the scale of the crisis in society, the capitalist class, aided by their politicians, will find a way to exploit it - no matter how venal.  Behind the clapping for the NHS and their hypocritical tears for the many who have died, they’ve no scruples whatsoever.  And especially not when it comes to throwing workers back into the path of this - as yet uncontained - virus.  They should not be allowed to get away with it.