Hazards Campaign – News Release 2nd November, 2020
A Government void of reality and enforcers avoiding reality!
This week the national Hazards Campaign will endorse a call for action to force the Government to take a Zero-Covid strategy to suppress the virus to save lives and livelihoods (1). Throughout the pandemic the Hazards Campaign has argued that unsafe workplaces are infecting workers who transmit it on to families and communities driving up the overall infection rates. The Government and its authorities continue to focus on demonising individuals, ignoring the role of the workplace as a source of infection and transmission and failing to enforce health and safety law that should ensure employers in every setting are controlling the risks. Government failure to protect workers has also failed to protect communities.
Janet Newsham of the Hazards Campaign will say that “any Covid circuit-breaker must be part of a Zero-Covid strategy which includes high numbers of people tested, a high percentage of those positive cases traced, contacted, and people supported financially to isolate. Anything less would be an abdication of government responsibility and a waste of valuable time to get the virus under control . A circuit break must also ensure that all essential workplaces remaining open are Covid-safe (2).
“On the 5th November we are going into a second national lockdown that will fail to reduce the transmission rate significantly if it leaves many unsafe workplaces open without adequate enforcement of the controls of risks, and if it doesn’t rebuild a publicly owned Test, Trace and Isolate with support system integrated in local public health and the NHS.”
In the North of England many people have been in almost continual restrictions throughout the pandemic and since forced return to unsafe workplaces including schools and universities the transmission rates have continued to rise. Unless this lockdown makes significant changes, it will causes much hardship for little benefit.
As we move to a second national lock-down, we should reflect on why we have got here and ensure lessons are learned.
- Our first lock-down was too little, and came too late and (the second one is also too little, and far too late) (3)
- Non-essential workplace continued to work during first lock down and unsafe workplaces have continued to work throughout the pandemic (4)
- Testing was inadequate, not available for many people
- Tracing was privatised and did not function at a high level of contact tracing
- People couldn’t afford to isolate without financial assistance and employers of precarious contracted workers threatened workers from isolating or stopped wages and hours
- Self employed workers were not financially supported (note many construction workers are self-employed)
- Thousands of jobs have been lost due to Government mishandling, leaving people with huge debts and extreme anxiety
- The NHS has been starved of resources and staff because of Government policies and Brexit
- The HSE and LA enforcers. starved of resources and staff over ten years, haven’t been able to inspect or enforce health and safety law (5)
- The Govt has lost credibility and squandered trust – mixed messaging, confusing tiers/lockdowns, allowing one rule for us and another more lenient rule for the elite ‘Cummingsgate’ (6)
- Schools, colleges, universities opened up for face to face teaching against the advice of scientists and trade unions and transmission rose dramatically as forewarned (7)
- Public Health England scapegoated and disbanded in the middle of the current crisis
The Government were advised by their own SAGE scientific experts to lock-down on 21st September instead they opted for local lockdowns with confusing rules that couldn’t possibly work. (8)
For the circuit break to succeed, it must be on the basis of:
Closure of all non-essential workplaces;
Schools, colleges and universities closed to face to face teaching but supported to provide on-line teaching; support for in-school provision for key workers and vulnerable and deprived children;
Rebuilding a locally based, publicly run, high contact and efficient test, track and isolate system is in place, with speedy results available for anyone that needs a test, and people supported financially to isolate. This must be integrated with public health, the NHS and occupational health and safety.
Workplaces remaining open must be Covid-safe and not endanger the workers, their families and communities. Anyone is potentially infectious whether they show symptoms or not so all risks of transmission of the virus by any route must be controlled and enforced in all essential workplaces. This must include transmission by airborne aerosols which requires good ventilation, filtration and mask and PPE wearing. (9)
Workplaces that are closed must prepare to reopen safely as above.
Workers who have to be in work, need access to safe public transport and workers on public transport need their employers to ensure their safety and health and that of their customers. The same applies to health and social care, retail staff, teachers, transport workers, postal workers and others in essential work.
For a zero-covid strategy to work it has to be done in conjunction with Covid-Safe Workplaces. PHE and the HSE and local authority enforcers must be resourced to be able to carry out their primary functions. Outbreaks must be result in on-site testing centres to open up immediately, and occupational health enforcement officers must be on hand to determine transmission routes.
Janet will say “Government advice must improve and change to take account of updated risks on transmission. It is pointless regurgitating hollow rhetoric about school children and young people needing education to justify unsafe schools remaining open, if it is exposing them to the virus which they take back to their families and communities. What is going to harm a child more, a few weeks out of education or the death of their parents, siblings or grandparents, that they involuntarily infected? If education is open it has to be safe and the risks of aerosol transmission must be controlled.”(9)
- A Better Way To Go: towards to a Zero COVID UK – 7 July 2020 Independent SAGE
- Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place – 2 September 2020, Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE
- The Hazards Campaign calls for the government to adopt immediately a zero-Covid19 policy– 31 July 2020, Hazards Campaign
- No going back to work unless workers say it is safe!– 7 May 2020, Hazards Campaign
- Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk – 8 April 2020, Hazards Campaign
- The UK Government response is like a car skidding uncontrollably towards a brick wall – 23 September 2020, Hazards Campaign
- ‘We’ll be policed all the way to the factory gates’ – 30 September 2020, Hazards Campaign
- Summary of the effectiveness and harms of different non-pharmaceutical interventions, SAGE minutes 21 st Sept 2020
- Is two metre physical distancing enough? Aerosol transmission and other emerging issues – 14 September 2020, Hazards Campaign
- Hazards magazine coronavirus hub
- Abdication: HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis – Hazards 151, 2020
- Laid bare: The scandal of expendable workers before, during and after Covid – Hazards 151, 2020
- Covid19 in the UK and occupational health and safety. Predictable but not inevitable failures what can we do now, Professor Andrew Watterson
- Exposed: Workers need health, pay and job protection from all job risks, Hazards 149, 2020
- Hazards Campaign: Briefings and statements on Covid-19
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