Number 10 this morning unveiled a grand plan to halt Coronavirus – including telling people to wash their hands while singing happy birthday.
The plan fails to provide adequate statutory sick pay arrangement for workers force to self-isolate – meaning they don’t get paid for the first three days of sickness – and then just £94 a week after that.
Workers are then faced with the devastating choice – put food on the table or come to work even if they believe the are infected with COVID-19.
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: “The Government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak is predictably slap dash and ill-thought out.
“This isn’t a battle plan – it’s an episode of Dad’s Army.
“Statutory sick pay is woefully inadequate at the best of times – but the outbreak of COVID-19 has highlighted the risks poses to workers and the public at large.
“Ministers already have the emergency powers to stem this crisis by forcing employers to pay full sick pay from day one – and to offer financial assistance to smaller companies where required.
“Instead, they are telling people they won’t get paid for the first three days of self-isolation – and only £94 a week after. That gives people a perverse incentive to come into work even if they may be infected.”
“That gives people a perverse incentive to come into work even if they may be infected.”
Here are the key points from the Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus in the UK.
– If police lose “significant staff” numbers to illness, they would “concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order”.
– In a “stretching scenario”, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks.
– Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as potentially their own illness and caring responsibilities. Supporting staff welfare “will be critical” for businesses.
– The UK has stockpiles of medicines for the NHS, plus protective clothing and equipment for medical staff.
– The public can help delay the spread of the virus by washing hands with soap regularly, not spreading misinformation and relying on trusted sources. They should also ensure family vaccines are up to date and check on family, friends and neighbours. They should also check Foreign Office advice before travelling abroad and be understanding of the pressures the health service is under.
– The public will be asked to accept that “the advice for managing Covid-19 for most people will be self-isolation at home and simple over the counter medicines”.
– If coronavirus becomes established, there will be a focus on essential services and helping those “most at risk to access the right treatment”.
– During the mitigation phase, when the virus is much more widespread, “pressures on services and wider society may become significant and clearly noticeable”.
– The Ministry of Defence will provide support as needed, including to essential services.
– There will be increased Government communication with Parliament, the public and the media if the virus becomes more widespread.
– All Government departments to have a lead person for coronavirus.
– If the virus takes hold, social distancing strategies could include school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings and closing other educational settings.
– It is possible that an outbreak or pandemic of Covid-19 could come in multiple waves.
– Non-urgent operations and other procedures could be cancelled, and hospital discharges monitored to free-up beds, with appropriate care in people’s homes.
– Hospital worker shifts could be altered and leavers or retirees called “back to duty”.
– Measures exist to help businesses with short-term cash flow problems.
– There is a distribution strategy for sending out key medicines and equipment to NHS and social care.
– This strain of coronavirus is new and people have a lack of immunity to it, meaning “Covid-19 has the potential to spread extensively”.
– Everyone is susceptible to catching the disease and thus it is “more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected”.
– There could be an “increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable and elderly groups”.
– While most people will suffer mild to moderate symptoms, similar to seasonal flu, some will need hospital care due to pneumonia developing.
– Young children can become infected and “suffer severe illness”, but overall the illness is less common in the under-20s.