UK government is nowhere near meeting World Health Organisation criteria for exiting lock-down
Labour leader Keir Starmer, in common with a number of right-wing commentators and lobbyists, is pushing for the government to publish an ‘exit strategy’ saying how and when the UK will come out of ‘lock-down’, in spite of continuing high numbers of deaths and the unfolding horror of a huge toll in the nation’s care homes.
But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has six reasons why such talk is not only premature but entirely inappropriate – six tests that a nation should be able to meet before any ‘exit’ is considered.
And the UK is a long, long way from meeting any of them.
The WHO’s tests are:
- transmission is controlled
- health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case – and trace every contact
- outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes
- preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go
- ‘importation’ risks can be managed
- communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’
Transmission is not controlled. The government’s decision to close underground stations and reduce public transport services is forcing those who do have to travel into crowded spaces. The continuing absence of masks and other ‘PPE’ is promoting infection in hospitals and care homes – contravening rules 1, 3 and 4 at the same time.
No preventive measures are in place anywhere apart from hand-washing and the ‘2m rule’ – even though the WHO knows, and the UK government admits, that the virus can travel more than 2 metres.
Infections are not only uncontrolled but rampant in care homes, resulting in huge numbers of deaths that are not even counted in official figures. The Tories are not reporting deaths in hospital accurately either, with hospitals saying they are understating deaths by half.
Flights continue to pour into the UK even from the world’s worst-hit coronavirus hotspots – without even the most rudimentary health-checks on passengers before they are allowed to travel onward, mostly on crowded public transport.
Communities are poorly educated in the dangers of the virus and utterly unempowered – without even clarity on, for example, the wearing of masks, let alone any availability of masks to wear if they wanted to.
And the UK is about as far away as it could possibly be from being in a position to test its population even once – at current capacity it would take around twelve years to test everyone even once, let alone conduct the regular repeat testing, including of those without symptoms, needed to control the epidemic.
The government has not even shown the inclination to trace and isolate the contacts of those testing positive for the virus, never mind any plan for doing so.
In such a bleak landscape of Tory denial, laziness and ideological disregard for WHO standards and procedures, talk of ‘exits’ is utterly inappropriate.
When every day brings reports of new deaths among NHS staff and other front-line heroes and among our most vulnerable, stopping the UK’s government from herding its people to death is the immediate and overwhelming priority.
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