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Life and health must the priority for all

At a time of national crisis, only a command economy can provide the co-ordinated, integrated response needed to defeat the virus, says HANK ROBERTS

HAVING called the fight against the coronavirus a “war,” the government has patently failed to match its rhetoric.  

It should have, and should now, establish a command economy. 

For this there is no need to look back to World War II because we have the example of China.  

China, the most populous, and in many areas among the most crowded of countries, has the virus under control.  

I received a message from a friend working in Shanghai, which said: “Small outbreak of Covid-19 in Qingdao yesterday. It happened in a hospital where people who come from abroad go if they test positive for Covid. 

“They have already tested 114,000 healthcare workers and patients who were all negative. 

“In the next five days the entire city of Qingdao will be tested. That’s nine million people. 

“Everyone today in my workplace (Shanghai) had to declare if they had been to Qingdao over the recent national holiday. 

“I’m assuming other workplaces had to do the same. Very impressive.” 

Prior to this no virus transmissions had been reported within China for two months. 

Some say that we have to balance the interests of harm to the economy with action to halt the virus.  

Whose economy is suffering the most harm: ours or China’s?  

When we do look back in our country to WWII, the lessons are clear.

There was a single response in Britain. Controls were put on capitalists and capitalism because it was decided that life and health were the priority — the equal priority — for all.

While we will need to have a full and detailed independent inquiry after the epidemic is over, we need an urgent formal assessment of where we are at now.  

If we do not learn the lessons of history, including recent history, we are condemned to repeat them.

Crony contracts to profiteering and incompetent private firms should never have been given and must cease.  

The functions of local authorities at a community level must be beefed up, not outsourced, and finance increased as necessary to win this “war.”  

The private medicine and hospital sector must be commandeered, and a single integrated service approach taken. 

The privateers must be extirpated from the National Health Service (hopefully for good).

In WWII Winston Churchill said: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” 

The enemy then were people — the Nazis and Axis powers who could use the truth against us. Viruses are not people. 

It is now clear that SAGE, according to recently released minutes, wanted to put Britain under a complete lockdown “circuit breaker” over two weeks ago. 

Secrecy — more politely termed confidentiality — is a nonsense in this “war.” 

We need full transparency. All scientific advice and deliberations should be open and transparent. 

If scientific advice is to be ignored, this needs to be known publicly without delay and the rationale for doing such an unwise act stated.

Getting on top of this pandemic will not happen by not listening to the scientists. 

Hank Roberts is a member of the National Education Union’s executive. This article is written in a personal capacity.

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