Summary of Labour’s key Covid-19 demands
- A test, track and isolate strategy, and publication of the government’s scientific advice;
- A Covid-19 health inequalities strategy, with testing and tracing rolled out in areas of deprivation, and resource to ensure inequalities in non-Covid health outcomes do not worsen;
- Daily updates and the publication of figures on the performance of each of the government’s Covid-19 schemes;
- More detail on the additional flexibility in the furlough scheme, and fast implementation;
- Increased Statutory Sick Pay and extension to cover low earners, with strengthened social security measures to prevent families and individuals from sliding into further hardship;
- Additional support for domestic violence services, including funds for organisations that run frontline services, and measures to turn underused hotel chains and university halls into emergency accommodation.
- Deferral of rental payments beyond this crisis period, with a further manageable payback period of up to two years;
- Underwriting all Higher Education institutions to secure their future and their role in our economic recovery;
- Prioritised support for UK farmers to protect specific industries (e.g. dairy) and maintain food supply;
- Urgent action to implement 14-day quarantine for those entering the UK;
- A financial support package for hauliers, ports, airports and critical routes to secure the supply chain in food and medicines between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Easing lockdown restrictions
- We all want to see the restrictions eased and for society to reopen. Some restrictions have been lifted. That was a decision the government made last week. The question is how we go forward, given the situation we’re in. And that requires confidence building by the government, much more straightforward public health messaging and real engagement with all relevant parties including the opposition.
- We remain committed working constructively with the government. But that does mean they need to work with us and get control of the situation.
- First, we need to restore public confidence in the public health advice. The government’s public health advice was severely undermined by the Dominic Cummings affair.
- Second, the government has got to listen to the experts and be more open about the rationale behind the decisions it has taken. We want to see society reopen, but it must be done in a way that is safe and is following the science.
- Finally, the government has to reopen the door to outside help, including the opposition. We want to work constructively with the government, but that can only happen if they are willing to listen.
On 2 meter social distancing
- On 27 May, the PM promised a fresh review of the advice on 2 meter social distancing and said we would get results significantly before the 15 June reopening of shops.
- Its not good enough that the government is dragging its feet on doing they review. People need clarity as businesses reopen and people go back on public transport.
- We all want children back at school as soon as possible. Educating our children must be a priority.
- But the government’s mismanagement on this issue has put the welfare and education of children at risk.
- The government has completely failed to show leadership, with no coherent strategy on schools. Ministers should have brought together all those who needed confidence in their plans, from education unions and local authorities through to parents’ associations.
- There is a very real risk that this country will lag behind the rest of the world in its recovery and in the wellbeing and education of our children because of these mistakes. We cannot allow that to happen.
- We need decisive action, which will require three things.
- First, a national plan to reopen our classrooms safely. That plan should be developed in the next fortnight with those who understand schools best: parents, teachers, education unions and council leaders.
- Second, adaptations need to be made so that teachers, children and parents can be kept safe. Introducing these changes must be a national effort using the creativity of the British people. Towns, villages and cities are full of empty buildings and spaces that can be repurposed. Theatres, museums, libraries and leisure centres could be repurposed and opened for children.
- Third, we need to take steps now to reverse the gaps in attainment that have been worsened during the lockdown. Despite the best efforts of teachers, millions of children will have gone without a proper education for nearly three months. They cannot wait until September to start learning again. Free school meals should also be extended over the summer period for all those who need it.
- None of this is beyond the capability of government. It simply requires focus and determination to do the best for our children.
Test and trace
- Test and trace is the key to easing lockdown restrictions safely. But instead of the “world-beating” system the Prime Minister promised us by 1 June, the system is in total chaos because the government got the planning wrong.
- Yet again, the government has been too slow in tackling the virus. They were too slow with the lockdown, too slow on PPE distribution, too slow on testing, too slow to protect care homes and now they’ve been too slow to involve councils even though they had the expertise and knowledge ready to hunt down this virus street by street.
- The government must now follow Labour’s three-point plan if we are to end lockdown safely. If they get test and trace wrong, the country risks another catastrophic spike of infection that will lead to a second lockdown with all the untold damage that will mean for lives and livelihoods across Britain.
- Make sure councils have necessary powers to play their role in enforcing lockdowns in their area as needed to respond to local spikes in infections;
- Introduce a Covid Test Guarantee: A double-lock that no-one will have to wait more than 24 hours to receive a test and then no more than 24 hours to receive the results – for all tests, without exception and with immediate effect;
- Deliver a working app that will enable councils to contact everyone at risk – with a cast-iron guarantee to the public about the security of their personal information.
- We all want to give the test and trace scheme the best chance of succeeding so the country can begin to safely ease lockdown and get the economy back on its feet.
- But without giving businesses the extra financial support they need to make sure their employees can self-isolate, we risk pushing them into further financial distress when they are already overstretched.
- The government should urgently considering extending statutory sick pay to larger businesses that rely on face-to-face contact so that they in turn can support public health objectives, exactly as they have done with the Job Retention Scheme.
- The Covid-19 crisis has exposed that our social security system is a safety net with too many holes in. The eligibility criteria for statutory sick pay has the same gaps, and if they are not filled, a cohort of people will be expected to make an impossible choice between self-isolating or putting food on the table.
- The government must consider how emergency support can be made available for people in this situation, or otherwise risk the success of the scheme and pushing those who do comply but cannot work as a result into further hardship.
- This must be part of an overall consideration of our levels of support as a country. Even the Health Minister himself has admitted that he could not survive on the current rate of statutory sick pay.
- At the start of this pandemic the chancellor rightly promised the NHS would get whatever resources it takes to deal with Coronavirus. The same must now be true for social care.
- Care homes and home care services provide support for people who are most at risk of catching the virus, with all the tragic consequences this can bring. Councils must be given all the resources they need to ensure care providers properly protect elderly and disabled people with the right staffing levels, PPE and infection control measures.
- Social care will be dealing with the consequences of this virus for many months yet to come. It is vital that a long term package of support is put in place now, so all care services can properly plan for the extra pressures they will face in future.
Testing in care homes
- Last month the Health Secretary promised that by 6 June, all residents and staff in care homes for the over 65s would be tested. Today he said that care homes would only have tests ‘delivered’.
- This isn’t good enough and the government has been too slow to act. Care home residents and staff need to be regularly tested if we are going to get to grips with this virus. And we swiftly need to move to regularly testing family members too, so they can safely visit their loved ones.
- Ministers should now implement a comprehensive strategy for regularly testing all care homes – including for the under 65s- and give social care services the priority and resources they deserve.
Support for carers
- The essential role of family carers has received precious little attention during this pandemic so far. Support has been desperately hard to access and many families feel overwhelmed and pushed to breaking point.
- With millions more people now caring for their loved ones or friends, it is vital that unpaid carers are given the support they need to help them cope with their caring responsibilities, balance caring with work, and look after their own health too.
- Ministers must provide local authorities with the resources they need to support carers, including with proper information and advice. Carers must be also be priority for regular testing and PPE, particularly where they care for the most vulnerable.