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16 December 2020

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Coronavirus

Mass testing - we need trade union oversight and full pay for all

NHS protest, photo Socialist Party

NHS protest, photo Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Katrine Williams, Socialist Party national committee

The Tory government is ploughing enormous resources into mass testing, promising 100 billion for 'Operation Moonshot', equivalent to 70% of the usual annual NHS resource budget. The majority of funding is being funnelled into private companies carrying out the tests.

Mass testing, sufficiently accurate and used effectively, could be an important tool in the response to the pandemic. But how effective are the tests, and how does mass testing fit with the rest of the government's Covid strategy?

Having been trialled in Liverpool, the government's version of mass testing is being rolled out to further communities, including the possibility of workplace testing. So far, there has not been a proper evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme in Liverpool made public.

The lateral flow test used as part of the scheme needs a swab that has been pushed up both nostrils from each individual. In the main, swabbing is done by the individuals themselves. Meanwhile, the testing process is being carried out by what the government call "experienced" staff, but who, in reality, have had just an hour's training by video.

Despite assertions about the accuracy of the test, the accuracy of results fall within a very wide range. In Liverpool, tests captured just 58% of those with Covid-19. Accuracy of testing is much higher when the samples are obtained, and the tests are done, by clinical experts. Accuracy rises to 79% when done by laboratory scientists.

The government and bosses want to use mass testing as a means to get workers back to work as soon as possible, cutting self-isolation times, and maintaining the fiction that workplaces are 'Covid secure'.

There is a danger that mass testing can give the illusion of safety and false reassurance to those who test negative. All safety measures including social distancing, face coverings, good ventilation and good hygiene continue to be vital for safety, and are often absent from workplaces.

Mass testing in Liverpool had a varying degree of take up. The lowest take up was in the poorest communities, where workers cannot afford to self-isolate because of the impact on their pay. Self-isolation is an effective way to stop the spread and must not be curtailed. All workers, including those on limited-hours contracts, must receive full pay and face no detriment from annual leave or sickness absence recording.

More accurate testing, carried out by trained professionals, as part of a publicly owned system, and under the democratic control of workers and the trade unions, could play a vital role in tackling the pandemic. But it also needs to be combined with full pay for those isolating, and resources provided to ensure all safety measures are carried out in our workplaces and communities.

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In The Socialist 16 December 2020:


News

Unemployment and Covid rising - the crisis is not over - Fight for jobs and safety

Mass testing - we need trade union oversight and full pay for all

Fight for NHS pay and funding

Rich countries hoarding vaccine is danger to us all

No to Tories' new anti-protest law

Maternity unit deaths - democratic, public ownership needed

Met police investigate British mercenary war crimes against Tamils

No surprise, poverty is rising


Education

Cancel exams for class of Covid

Welsh schools close for safety after union pressure

Effective testing and properly funded safety plan needed in schools

East London shows the way: strikes are how to fight for state education

Determined strikers at Leaways school


Workplace News

Openreach and EE: Massive vote for action

PCS union conference stripped of powers by NEC

Unite launch ballot over sacked London bus rep

Christmas redundancy shock at L&Q housing association

Stop 'fire and rehire' at British Gas


New Technology

Can green technology and AI save capitalism?


Engels

'Socialism - Utopian and Scientific' by Engels


Reports & campaigns

Protests in solidarity with Indian farmers

Book: The national question - a Marxist approach

School boy assaulted by police in Tottenham

TUSC relaunch in the north west

Protest against immigration enforcement centre in Newham

Tremendous fighting fund reflects confidence


Quiz

Quiz 2020


 

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Related links:

Coronavirus:

triangleLife expectancy falls - a condemnation of capitalism

triangleFurlough reduction risks job losses

triangleCapitalism's Covid failings

triangleOur lives, our jobs, our future - Not safe in Tory hands

triangleCovid inquiry? Workers must decide

Union:

triangleOaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions

triangleNottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay

triangleHigher education disputes

triangleNHS workers - vote yes for action to win a decent pay rise

Trade union:

triangleAn appeal to trade union members to stand as anti-cuts candidates

triangleWorkers need a pay rise

triangleNSSN COP26 online workers' forum: Climate change - for a workers' transition

Pay:

triangleSouth Yorkshire Stagecoach drivers strike against measly 1% pay offer

triangleNHS Critical

Covid:

triangleCovid-19: New variant emerges but same old capitalist disease

Government:

triangleTories strengthen repressive laws

Liverpool:

triangleJohn Barnes on class and capitalism. What's missing?

Health:

triangleTories responsible for NHS staff shortages

Article dated 16 December 2020

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