View from Westminster: Furlough scheme must continue, says Helen Hayes

News Desk (21 October, 2020)

'It is not too late for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to change their minds'

36601Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood

Regrettably in recent weeks we have seen the rate of coronavirus once again rising quickly across the country including in London, writes Helen Hayes…

Although initially the increase in coronavirus cases was strongly focused on younger people in the community, it is now clear that cases are increasing rapidly amongst over-65s, leading to rising numbers of patients with coronavirus in hospital, on ventilators and sadly a rising death toll.

We are also seeing more staff in our care homes with coronavirus, many of whom currently show no symptoms and unwittingly risk passing this deadly disease onto the care home residents that they look after.

The test, trace and isolate system should have been a vital tool for preventing coronavirus spread and avoiding a disastrous second wave, but the government’s privatised system, outsourced to contractors like Serco and Sitel has been a complete disaster. In recent weeks local residents have been told to travel as far as Scotland and the Isle of Wight for a coronavirus test and we know that the number of tests was deliberately restricted in London, just at the time that we needed the testing capacity most.

Speak to any parent or carer of young children and they will tell you that approximately three weeks after the schools start back in September is a peak time for children to suffer from colds which often include the symptoms of cough and mild fever. But no one in the privatised track, trace and test system seemed to have anticipated that a predictable rapid increase in the number of people with symptoms which the government requires to be tested would lead to a sharp increase in the demand for tests. This despite the advice of private consultants being paid up to £7,000 a day.

The government had months to prepare for the start of term, but they failed to plan and their incompetence is now contributing the rising infection level in London and across the country.

Now that London and many other parts of the country are facing more restrictions it is essential that the government provides the support needed to individual workers and businesses that are impacted most, as well as providing additional funding to our councils.

I want to see the furlough scheme continue beyond the end of this month, with at least 80 per cent of wages paid for workers impacted, support for crucial sectors of our economy such as the arts, leisure and hospitality, proper sick pay from day one for all workers showing symptoms or forced to take time off work because someone in their household shows symptoms and clear advice and support for everyone who is deemed clinically vulnerable to coronavirus who was previously required to shield.

Although the Tories have been too slow to act throughout this crisis, and have shown a callous disregard for the terrible suffering of those who have fallen through the cracks in their response, it is not too late for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to change their minds and provide the help and support that our communities and economy need.


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