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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 June 2020


"Test, trace, isolate, support" - the Tories' scheme fails on all counts

  (Click to enlarge)

An NHS contact tracer

I checked my emails late on 27 May and was surprised to see one from the NHS. The new test and trace system was going 'live' - not 1 June as expected, but 8am the next day!

Starting four days early would be cause for celebration if a well-planned scheme was smoothly rolled out. But this scheme seems to have been devised in a panic - "from a standing start in a few weeks" said Matt Hancock in his video message to contact tracers. Why weren't preparations made long before?

Our training materials are mostly dry and repetitive documents (with many typing errors, showing the rush to get them out). We haven't had opportunities to practise mock calls.

My biggest problem has been trying to set up a 'virtual' call centre at home with Amazon, Sitel and other software. After many hours, struggling to follow instructions with multiple personal identifications and passwords, I still hadn't got it.

So the 28 May launch took place without me. Then I heard another tracer on the radio describing exactly the same problems. Since then I've read many others are in the same situation. 7,000 of us have been recruited with clinical backgrounds, not for our IT experience.

When I phoned the helpline I found the reason many of us couldn't complete the software installations was we hadn't been sent everything we needed. Five days later I'm still waiting! It now looks like the end of June before the scheme is fully operating.

Yet the government is pressing ahead towards ending the lockdown. The number of new cases is falling but still around 2,000 a day. These are just those confirmed with tests.

Thousands of people will be contacts of these new cases. Some will catch the virus and spread it to others before feeling unwell themselves.

A contact tracing scheme is vital to bring Covid-19 under control in the absence of vaccines or treatment. If it's to be effective, however, testing must be easily accessible for everyone with symptoms and anyone at risk. Results need to be quickly available. GPs and local public health departments should be informed.

Those testing positive should trust their information will remain confidential so they willingly name their recent close contacts. Contacts should be traced, given advice to isolate for up to 14 days, and fully supported to do this. Full pay while off work is essential. The measly 95.85 a week statutory sick pay will force many to ignore stay-at-home advice.

Successful contact tracing depends on people who feel fine agreeing to go back into isolation while the rest of us are out of lockdown. They are asked to show solidarity to stop the virus spreading. The government must show solidarity in return, with full financial and practical support.

Employers must agree to hold jobs open and not pressure workers to continue working. Trade unions should make sure this doesn't happen.

Test, trace, isolate, support - the Tories' scheme fails on all counts. Tens of thousands could die as a result as a new wave of infection develops. But Serco, Sitel, Amazon and other companies will still be making money from it.

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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 2 June 2020:

What we think

Battered Tories face divisions and growing anger

Protect every job, nationalise don't subsidise

Council finance disaster: set emergency no-cuts budgets and fight for funds!

George Floyd

Fight racism and class inequality, fight capitalism!

USA - another cop killing of unarmed black man sparks widespread protests


Stand firm for workplace safety

Schools... no going back until it's safe

Workplace news

Coordinated union struggle needed to save jobs and nationalise JCB

Reject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation

Fight continues for safety on London buses

PCS pay claim: Vital work unrecognised

Equity union general secretary election

Coronavirus news

"Test, trace, isolate, support" - the Tories' scheme fails on all counts

Furlough: We are not 'all in the same boat'

Hospital closed following rampant spread of Covid-19

Labour Party

Socialism Today special issue: Lessons from the Corbyn experience

Blairite general secretary elected - Starmer's takeover of Labour Party consolidated

Readers' opinion

Football in the time of coronavirus - reclaim our game!

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters

Socialist Party reports

Pandemic doesn't stop Socialist Party educating organisers: northern meeting


Home   |   The Socialist 2 June 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

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