Coronavirus: Boris Johnson has a week to sort out test and trace or face ‘bleak winter’, warns shadow health secretary

Boris Johnson has one week to sort out the test and trace system or consign Britain to a “very bleak winter” of rising coronavirus an infection and doable lockdown restrictions, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has warned.

Although the prime minister has promised to improve testing numbers to 500,000 each day by the top of October, Mr Ashworth warned that this may not be quickly sufficient to cope with fast-rising demand which has seen many turned away or informed to journey a whole lot of miles at a time when infections are doubling each week.

And he stated that, reasonably than rising capability, the important thing selections Mr Johnson should make now are to transfer the system away from the non-public firms which have failed to hit the required 80 per cent contact-tracing degree and into the fingers of native public health groups, and additionally to present higher monetary assist for these informed to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

“If the current trend continues and we see this exponential growth carry on, then by next weekend we could be in a similar situation to where we were in early March,” Mr Ashworth informed The Independent.

“This is a perilous second and we didn’t want to be right here. If that they had listened to the warnings that not solely the Labour Party however a complete host of medical consultants have been placing ahead in the summertime and bought the test and trace and isolate system working actually successfully then, we might have put up defences for our communities.

“We knew that there would at all times be strain at this level – kids, fairly rightly, going again to college, folks returning to the workplace and in fact that is the time of yr when colds and viruses improve anyway. They ought to have ready for this second, however testing capability remained broadly flat between June and August.

“And it now testing is breaking down, tracing is breaking down, you can’t find the people with the virus, you can’t isolate them and you lose control.”

Recent figures counsel that as few as 20 per cent of these informed to self-isolate really comply, stated Mr Ashworth, pointing out that for these on zero-hours contracts or low incomes or with caring obligations, staying residence for a fortnight unsupported doesn’t appear a viable possibility.

“Boris Johnson has made misjudgments throughout this crisis and has shown a lack of grip,” stated Mr Ashworth. “The question is, has he got the vision and ambition to do what is necessary now to prevent this second spike, prevent a damaging further set of restrictions and drive the infection rates down?

“I would urge him to fix test and trace. He’s probably got a week or so in which he can do it, but if he doesn’t do that we are in a very serious situation.”

Mr Ashworth stated Labour would proceed to give its backing to public health interventions really helpful by the chief medical officers, and stated the prime minister ought to resist strain from “right-wing Tory MPs who don’t believe that these restrictions are necessary, who think we should be following a let-the-virus-rip through the population approach”.

But he stated there was little question that a second nationwide lockdown can be “disastrous for the economy”, when coupled with a potential “tsunami” of job losses when chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme ends on 31 October.

“I know that Boris Johnson doesn’t want to be seen as the Prime Minister Who Stole Christmas,” he stated. “And we can avoid restrictions, we can avoid lockdown, if we have a decent test, trace and isolate system in place, because that is how you get on top of the virus and have a degree of normality until a vaccine is found.”

Even if Covid is tamed by a vaccine, nonetheless, the UK can’t decrease its guard towards the hazard of future pandemics, he stated.

Climate change, by forcing wild animals into nearer contact with people, will improve the chance of novel sicknesses leaping between species, he warned.

People queue up outdoors a coronavirus testing centre providing walk-in appointments in east London(PA)

And he stated that the social inequalities left by 10 years of austerity politics have to be addressed so as to cease the UK as soon as once more being a excellent breeding-ground for infectious illness.

“A decade of austerity economics didn’t just ill-prepare our health and care systems, it saw deprivation increase, inequality widen, life expectancy go backwards for the poorest in society,” he stated.

“Why is this relevant to the pandemic? Because we now that in areas of poverty and deprivation, people get ill sooner and die earlier. They get ill from things like heart disease and particular cancers or type 2 diabetes. These are all the conditions that are particularly vulnerable to Covid. Covid thrives on these health inequalities, and now death rates in the most deprived areas in England are more than double than those in the least deprived areas.”

Mr Ashworth was talking on the eve of a digital Labour Connected on-line convention rapidly organized after the occasion’s annual gathering in Liverpool had to be cancelled due to the outbreak, and which is ready to be dominated by coronavirus.

Despite rising unease over Sir Keir Starmer’s wariness of committing Labour to particular coverage guarantees, the shadow health secretary stated he didn’t anticipate the brand new chief to be nailing his colors to the mast on points just like the taxes to this point forward of the election anticipated in 2024.

But he stated Starmer’s keynote speech on Tuesday ought to clarify his imaginative and prescient for a UK recovering from and modified by the pandemic.

“You’ll see us talking about jobs, jobs, jobs,” he stated. “You’ll see us talking about the importance of public services to strengthen the social fabric of society.

“Our priorities are the priorities of the British people – it’s jobs, it’s protecting the NHS and providing decent social care services, schools, making sure our streets are safe and demonstrating that we will protect our country from the pandemics of the future, which I think are a big risk now because of climate change.

“You’ll see Labour sketching a vision of the future on that front, but you won’t get specific itemised manifesto commitments at this stage – we’ve got a few years to go before that.”

Ashworth, who served on Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench all through his 4 years as chief, admitted that the inner faction-fighting that characterised the interval had been “energy-sapping” however insisted it was now a factor of the previous.

“I don’t think there’s an appetite for those fights any more,” he stated. “The party is united behind Keir Starmer in a way that I don’t think it’s been behind a leader for at least the last six or seven years. People have had enough of the infighting and they want us to focus on delivering for the British people.”
Mr Ashworth insisted that not solely the “Red Wall” northern and Midlands constituencies misplaced to the Tories are “winnable” in 2024, but in addition seats final held below New Labour like Stevenage, Harlow, Crawley or Milton Keynes. And he disregarded solutions that Starmer will want to come to an lodging with the SNP to make up for its misplaced Scottish strongholds, saying solely: “We’re fighting for a majority Labour government.”

“These are the seats that will decide the next general election,” he stated. “I’m acutely aware of the mountain we have to climb. But I think we are getting ourselves into good shape to start climbing it.

“I think Keir Starmer has made an excellent start on that front. And I think the Tories are worried about it.”

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