“The United Kingdom has an enviable reputation for resilience. In a rapidly changing world, we are at the forefront of embracing new opportunities and seeking innovative solutions to emerging problems.” Foreword to Cabinet Office National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, 2017
In the three years since its publication let us examine the innovative solutions to the most recent ‘emerging problem', the COVID-19, Conoravirus outbreak.
VENTILATORS: These assist respiratory functions, pumping oxygen into the blood for vital organs. They are the main supportive treatment for critical stage COVID-19 patients.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said he could not make guarantees that everyone who requires a ventilator will get one, saying: “We don’t make guarantees in healthcare”.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chairman of the British Medical Association says UK’s lack of ventilators “is a result of a decade of under-funding”.
Former NHS trust chairman Roy Lilley has said, “I mean we’ve seen this coming. It’s pretty obvious we were going to need more ventilators and somehow or other, either we’ve been left flat foot and haven’t started to buy them quickly enough or we’ve tried to buy them and they’re just not there.”
HOSPITAL BEDS: Dr Nagpaul, said the UK has about “a quarter of the critical care beds that Germany has and that the country’s “starting position unfortunately has been far worse than many other of our European nations”.
Europe is the third biggest manufactuer of hospital beds after New Zealand and the USA. Former NHS trust chairman Roy Lilley said “This is capital equipment and the hospitals won’t have been buying them”. He doubted European producers would sell to the UK now we are leaving the EU.
PROTECTIVE CLOTHING: The Times reports that, “frontline hospital staff fear that doctors and nurses will die because of NHS guidance that they do not need to wear full protective equipment when caring for virus patients.”
TESTING: The World Health Organization has criticised the approach of countries like the UK that are not prioritising testing, with its director General, Tedros Adhanom, saying “you cannot fight a fire blindfolded … test, test, test”. The Guardian reports that a junior doctor in an emergency assessment unit has started a petition called “Test frontline NHS staff for Covid-19 as a priority”, which has so far attracted nearly 700,000 signatures.
The UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance was asked if the UK should have mass testing on the scale of South Korea which has tested more than 250,000 people out of a population of 51 million, and is bringing infections down. He replied, : “I think we need a big increase in testing. That’s what I’m pushing for very hard.”
PRIVATE HOSPITALS: Spain and Portugal have led the way by requisitioning private hospitals, their equipment and staff. The UK are going to pay £2.5 million a day to ‘buy in’ these facilities.
LOSS OF EARNINGS: In the UK those who have lost their incomes are entitled to £94 a week. The Irish government is giving workers who have lost their incomes the Euro equivalent of £203 a week. The generous UK ‘scheme’ doesn’t even cover the many phony self-employed. Firms like DPD, a delivery company, is insisting that employees who self-isolate will still have to pay the costs of renting vans and equipment. And have I mentioned the homeless? It’s impossible to voluntarily self-isolate if you are sleeping on the street. The state should requisition hotels for the homeless. There they can be be fed, kept warm and offered medical assistance.
CLOSING SCHOOLS: The government’s reason for keeping schools open is that working parents will be deprived of the free childcare they provide. Schools across Europe are closed. In Boris Johnson logic it is better for children to travel to school, mix with each other, come into close contact with dozens of adults and spread the virus.
If Jeremy Corbyn were PM today, millions would feel more secure. Even a journalist like Robert Peston, who spent years attacking him, is now making the case for something resembling a socialist response to the crisis.
“ ‘Community organising’ is one of the platitudes frequently offered when someone is bereft of political ideas. It is hard to do and often very dull. This time it is different.” As one Tory minister put it to Petson, these principles imply that Boris Johnson will almost certainly have to oversee a Government that for a good year or maybe longer will look quite socialist. The Minister added, 'We'll find ourselves implementing most of Jeremy Corbyn's programme'.