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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Urgent action needed on PPE!

by New Worker correspondent

SIR KEIR STARMER has called for urgent action to deal with the shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals and care homes struggling to cope with the coronavirus plague. The new Labour leader’s call reflects the mounting anger across the country at the Johnson Government’s abject failure to respond to the health crisis that goes far beyond the medical community.

“It would be a struggle for any government to get exactly the right kit to the right place at the right time but what we’re seeing here is an increasing gap between what the government says or thinks is happening and what the frontline are telling us, and this gap has to be closed as soon as possible because people are putting their lives, literally, on the line when they go to work. They need the proper equipment in the right place,” Starmer said. “There is a real difference between what we’re being told by the Government about protective equipment and what we’re hearing first hand from the front line. This mismatch must be addressed urgently.”

Meanwhile the Cabinet is reportedly split between Tory die-hards who want the lock-down lifted regardless of the risk to lives threatened by the deadly virus and others who fear that this would simply open the doors to a further round of the deadly infection.

Theresa Villiers, who lost her Cabinet post in the last Johnson reshuffle, said the economic fallout of the lockdown could be “catastrophic” if it was prolonged. “It’s so vital that we do find a way to let the economy start to come out of what is effectively a medically induced coma – the longer we leave it, there are simply going to be thousands of businesses that won’t survive”, she said. But this argument is being resisted by Tory big guns including the Prime Minister, who is recuperating after being released from hospital after contracting COVID-19.

Some say that Boris Johnson’s own stint in intensive care has prompted caution. One MP told the Times that: “The prime minister is in a funny place, I think he’s quite frightened. His illness and the warning from the doctors has really hit him hard…to find himself floored like this has really got into his head. He has become really tentative.”

Another “Cabinet source” told the Guardian that the loosening of lockdown restrictions cannot be done without boosting the rate of transmission – known as R. “The scientists are very clear, there’s no loosening of measures we can do that won’t bring the R back over 1” the MP said, whilst accepting that there may be some “small changes on their own that could do it”.

“But the question is whether behaviours change in other ways and push the R above 1. The second you have the R above 1 then you’re back to exponential growth,” the MP warned.

Johnson, who’s believed to be staying at Chequers, has the support of health minister Matt Hancock who also went down with the coronavirus infection, and a number of other members of the Cabinet who fear that a ‘second wave’ would cripple the already ailing British economy.

Meanwhile, new data puts the UK on track to become the second-worst-hit country in Europe, after Italy, for the number fatalities from coronavirus. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that the real extent of the country’s coronavirus-related death toll was over 40 per cent higher than daily figures indicated by the government as of 10th April. The ONS reportedly registered 13,121 deaths in England and Wales by 10 April whereas the government reported 9,288 in daily figures for patients who died in hospitals. The ONS included deaths registered in both hospitals and care homes, where the toll has doubled in less than a month.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock claims that the 40 per cent gap between daily data and the comprehensive data provided by the ONS was “not an accurate representation of those figures”. Nevertheless, “the sharp rise in care home deaths is deeply alarming – this could be the second front in the battle against COVID-19,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the National Health Service Confederation, which represents organisations that commission and provide NHS services.