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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 September 2020

Covid testing chaos

Mass job losses

Our lives and livelihoods at stake

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo NIH/CC

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo NIH/CC   (Click to enlarge)

With Covid infections doubling every week, 86% of doctors expect a second peak in the next six months. But the Tories' 'world-beating' test-and-trace system is in total chaos.

All over the country people with Covid symptoms are complaining about not being able to get a test. These include many doctors who, interviewed by the Doctors' Association UK, called the system an "utter shambles". GPs, like many other people, have been spending hours on the website trying to get a slot only to be eventually told to travel to a testing centre hundreds of miles away.

Operations are being cancelled because health workers are having to self-isolate, not knowing if they have the virus or not. Children are being sent home from school because teachers have symptoms and can't get tests. There have been no tests to be had in Bolton and other Covid hotspots.

If you're lucky enough to get a test, results are often delayed. Inadequate laboratory testing has created a backlog of at least 185,000 swabs, meaning that some have had to be sent to Germany and Italy for processing. And as for tracing - as many as 30% of contacts are not being found.


The Tories have pushed for us to go back to work, for the schools to open, for us to eat out and shop, then they try and blame young people and workers for their own cock-ups.

They complain that people are not isolating when they have the virus or have been in contact with someone who has. What they don't mention is that many isolating workers are expected to survive on just 95.85 a week statutory sick pay, which is just not possible. Two million are not even entitled to that.

Any worker expected to isolate should be on full pay. As should anyone who has to be at home because children are not able to go to school or childcare is not available because of Covid.

The idea that the system is not coping because too many people who don't have symptoms are demanding tests, as Matt Hancock declared, is ridiculous. Many scientists have said that it should be possible to carry out 10 million tests a day. But the Tories' test-and-trace system has been a disaster from day one - first due to underfunding and flirting with 'herd immunity', and then made worse by a system that has prioritised giving profitable contracts to the Tories' big-business friends.

With Covid-19 cases rising, and the cold and flu season not far away, the whole system is, in the words of the chair of Independent Sage, on a "knife edge".

Emergency action is needed. In addition to ensuring that isolating workers are fully paid, the profit motive must be entirely removed from the test-and-trace system. This must be fully funded and incorporated into the existing public health infrastructure, democratically run by committees involving the workers in the sector.

As Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), said at the virtual lobby of the annual meeting of the Trades Union Congress: "We are fighting for our lives and our livelihoods". As well as fighting for safety at work, a co-ordinated trade union fight against job losses is needed.

700,000 jobs have been destroyed since the lockdown began. Now the Tories are scrapping the job retention scheme at the end of October, and the redundancy notices are already starting to be issued. The NSSN is calling on the TUC to organise a day of demonstrations and protests in every town and city on Saturday 24 October to demand the furlough scheme be continued and upgraded. The main mobilising demand for this should be 'Work or full pay'.

We cannot trust the Tories to protect our lives or our jobs. We can only rely on our strength as workers and young people to fight for safety, jobs, decent pay and working conditions, and a socialist future.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

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.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

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In The Socialist 16 September 2020:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Our lives and livelihoods at stake

Sketch: The rule of six - some guidance from your government

Johnson's brinkmanship over EU deal deepens capitalist splits

Blame politicians, not workers and young people

Capitalist profit and the race to develop a vaccine

'Covid marshalls' must be accountable to communities

Under the microscope


Angry health workers demand 15% now!

NHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!

Workplace news and analysis

National Shop Stewards Network lobbying for a lead from the TUC

PCS members in DWP reject unsafe extension of hours

Ireland: Debenham's occupier speaks out

London bus drivers begin strike ballot over remote sign-on dispute

Tate workers on indefinite strike hold march and rally

Reinstate Tony Smith

Reinstate Richie Venton


Dispatches from the front: schools need Covid tests!

Public services

Covid and the third sector: for public planning, not charity stopgaps

Labour Party

Non-fiction: Left Out - the inside story of Labour under Corbyn

International socialist news and analysis

Egypt: Support for al-Sisi dwindles as his regime increases repression

Nigerian police repress peaceful anti-government protest

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Two weeks to donate: we need your help

Coventry: scrap 'profit before people' hospital parking charges

Covid generation says 'fund our future'

Why I joined the Socialist Party: Tories and Blairites only care about corporate greed

Selling the Socialist


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