In mid-March – which now seems like the distant past – the admins of Hebden Royd Covid19 Action Group sent the following requests to Calderdale Council, ahead of the Members’ Briefing on Covid19. The Council has not replied.
Obviously some things have changed since mid March. For instance the Coronavirus Bill has been passed and is now the Coronavirus Act.
But we think the issues raised then still need addressing, so are blogging them now.
Asks of Calderdale Council at Members’ briefing on Monday 16 March 2020
Covid 19 is going to worst hit the frail elderly, people with a range of underlying health problems and people on low incomes and living in deprived areas. There is evidence of this from previous pandemic flu in England.
A 2011 study of “Socio-economic disparities in mortality due to pandemic influenza in England” found that:
“People in the most deprived quintile of England’s population had an age and sex-standardised mortality rate three times that experienced by the least deprived quintile … Mortality was also higher in urban areas than in rural areas …”(Int J Public Health (2012) 57:745–750 DOI 10.1007/s00038-012-0337-1 )
It’s likely to be similar for Covid19 – specifically:
- It’s hard to imagine patients with a number of co-morbidities (ie lots of different ailments) getting to the top of the priority list for access to critical care – and co-morbidities are more prevalent in poorer areas.
- There could be socioeconomic patterns in terms of exposure and the practicality of taking personal steps to reduce exposure – but there is no Covid 19 testing for patients with Covid19 symptoms who self isolate, so no way of finding that out. The World Health Organisation thinks this failure to test is a bad idea. It has urged governments to “Test, test, test.”
At a briefing on Friday 13th March, the WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said:
“You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is,” “Find, isolate, test and treat every case to break the chains of Covid transmission. Every case we find and treat limits the expansion of the disease.”
The government needs to explain its refusal to carry out widespread testing of patients in the community who develop the Covid 19 symptoms. Covid 19 is a notifiable disease, that means it HAS to be reported. How can the government possibly justify not testing everyone with Covid19 symptoms?
And how can Calderdale Council and local NHS organisations fight Covid19 if they don’t know where it’s concentrating and what the contact links are?
The government has abandoned the attempt to contain the virus and now wants to delay the speed of infection while making sure that at least 60% of the population get Covid 19, apparently on the contentious principle that this will create “herd immunity”. With a death rate conservatively estimated at 1%, this would mean huge number of people dying.
3. People on low incomes will not be able to afford to stop work in order to self isolate – many will be carers themselves, families will be more at risk, they won’t be able to afford to stop work
Meanwhile the Times has reported that the government is to give police emergency powers to detain virus victims, in a Covid19 Emergency Bill to be introduced to the House of Commons on Monday 16 March.
This all has the potential to become very very ugly and nasty.
So we are asking Calderdale Council: Is tackling socio-economic health inequalities part of emergency preparedness plans for Covid19?
Measures to reduce the health inequalities impact of Covid19 include:
- Extra Covid 19 emergency funding
- Support for front line clinicians and social care staff
Extra Covid19 emergency funding
Calderdale Council successfully lobbied the government in 2016 for extra flood money. It – and the general public – now needs to lobby the government for extra Covid 19 emergency funding:
- Covid19 emergency universal basic income – Tracey Brabin MP is asking govt for a temporary universal basic income guarantee that includes freelancers and self employed
- rent holiday for tenants who have to self isolate or go into hospital
- mortgage holiday for people who have to self isolate or go into hospital – including for landlords’ properties where tenants rent Covid 19 holidays kick in
We bailed out the bankers in 2008, we can bail out the public re corvid costs now.
Without these measures, the inadequacy of the paltry safety net will increase the spread of Covid 19 & worry. Measures the government has already taken are inadequate.
For example, there are 7 million UK workers who don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, & who would have to wait 5 weeks to get Universal Credit. That’s 7 million who might go to work despite feeling ill. 7 million potential “spreaders”. Some of these 7 million will get Employment Support Allowance – but millions, probably most, won’t, because they haven’t earned enough in preceding years to qualify. In any case, who can live on £73pw Universal Credit/Employment Support Allowance, or even the millions more only on £94pw Statutory Sick Pay? Many will struggle into work sick as a consequence.
And then the police will have the power to arrest them
Support front line clinicians and social care staff
Calderdale Council also needs to lobby the government to:
- Set up immediate rapid testing of NHS workers so that if they are positive, they self isolate in order to protect patients, and if they are negative but have Covid 19 type symptoms they can get back to front line ASAP .
- Provide adequate and sufficient Personal Protective Equipment for all who need it – with proper training. Including for social care staff in care homes and patients’ own homes, as well as NHS staff.
- Identify many more hospital beds that can be altered to ITU beds.
- Immediate suspension of unnecessary bureaucracy in NHS, eg Suspend CQC inspections, appraisal and revalidation. Make the announcement today – GMC to publicly acknowledge Covid 19 crisis and show support for staff under pressure
- Immediate suspension of requirement to reduce deficits, balance budgets and impose efficiency cuts
- Germany has ordered another 10,000 ventilators. Other countries are also ordering more. There is a UK manufacturer. Our government needs to order more, if it hasn’t.
- And what about social care? BBC reporter Deb Cohen has tweeted “GPs already seeing covid19 in nursing homes yet the staff have no PPE or even basic surgical masks. Anyone can walk in and no checks even to see if they have symptoms. They say social care is unprepared.”
- Prioritise childcare for health and social care staff when closing schools and to close schools sooner to increase the chance if there being enough healthy teachers and childcare workers to do this.
- Carers need additional support, but on the other hand domiciliary care workers risk spreading infection (and are at risk themselves). More money is better than nothing, but extra support staff should be recruited asap.
Calderdale Council successfully lobbied the government to support and fund natural flood management. It can and should lobby the government to support front line clinicians and social care staff.
15 March 2020
Hebden Bridge Covid19 Action Group