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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 May 2020

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?

"Give us PPE", photo Surrey Unison   (Click to enlarge)

Barbara Clare, Stevenage Socialist Party

I was astounded as to the extent of the government's PPE failures and how NHS staff are being put at risk. The daily items of 'PPE' reported by Downing Street include detergent, paper towels, clinical waste bags, cleaning equipment, each individual glove (not pairs) and plastic aprons that provide limited protection.

Some hospitals reported only receiving ten gowns a day from government deliveries, leaving them to buy extras themselves. Libby, a union rep, displayed items donated by the public - aprons, bin bags, homemade items and swimming goggles. One employee showed a white use-by-date sticker stuck over an original yellow one on the box of a recent delivery - both were out of date.

The Panorama programme explained that for almost a decade a pandemic has been designated the greatest threat to Britain. However the government didn't stockpile any gowns, even though at the end of 2019 advisers said they were needed.

Professor John Ashton said it's "breathtaking". No visors or swabs were stockpiled either, and not a single body bag. When Covid-19 started, we still had time to stockpile.

At the start of the pandemic the government had 33 million respirator masks, but only 12 million have been handed out! The government has refused to say where the rest have gone.

The TV programme anonymously quotes from two heads of procurement at NHS Trusts.

One said: "We've been told not to talk about shortages outside of meetings and calls. They don't want people to know how bad it is." The other said: "The supply chain is erratic, unpredictable and incompetent."

Covid-19 was originally classed as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID). HCID guidelines state that all staff should wear a respirator mask, full face visor and a gown, and that the government has a legal obligation to make sure NHS staff have this kit.

Government PPE guidance has changed because of shortages. On 19 March, the government downgraded Covid-19. Now, recommended PPE is an apron, gloves and a flimsy surgical mask.

Why on earth shouldn't coronavirus be in the most serious category of classification? Some members of the committee responsible told the BBC it had to be a 'pragmatic' decision based on availability of PPE.

One quote from an NHS worker stood out: "Calling us heroes just makes it okay when we die." How many lives will be lost because of the scandalous shortage of PPE?

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 6 May 2020:

What we think

Bosses push to lift lockdown - they only care about profits

Coronavirus news

Dispatches from the NHS front

Bail out the real wealth creators, not the rich

Homes needed to end overcrowding

Homeless left on streets during pandemic

Pay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!


Your donations can keep the Socialist going

Test and trace

Test and trace: workers need a real plan

Tories using pandemic to shift lab testing out of NHS

Workplace news

Nationalise British Airways to stop 12,000 redundancies

Postal workers force Royal Mail back

No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers

Unsafe Workplace? "It's up to you" PCS tells reps and members

Further protests in Ireland against Debenhams closures - UK fightback needed

Rolls Royce threatens 8,000 job losses

EDF Energy workers furloughed on 100% pay

International news

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide

Trump puts profit before safety (again)

Lessons from history

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2


Peter Hadden remembered

Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?


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