A month-long lockdown in England must be used to sort out test and trace, and enforce health and safety in the workplace, says the Hazards Campaign.
As Whitehall imposes new restrictions from this Thursday (5 November) the campaign has argued that the time must be used to rebuild the failing test and trace system, and ensure workplaces remaining open are COVID-safe.
Hazards said that only a zero-COVID strategy, employing the above measures, as well as greater testing and financial support for those self-isolating, will be enough to stop the spread of the virus.
Lockdown will cause hardship and without implementing these measures, the campaign argued, will be for “little benefit”. It pointed to communities in the north of England that have been living under almost continual restrictions, yet transmission rates continued to rise.
Coordinator and chair Janet Newsham said: “On 5 November we are going into a second national lockdown that will fail to reduce the transmission rate significantly if it leaves many unsafe workplaces open without adequate enforcement of the controls of risks, and if it doesn’t rebuild a publicly owned test, trace and isolate with support system integrated in local public health and the NHS.”
The campaign is also critical of Westminster’s decision to keep schools open, rather than coincide a circuit break with an extended half term as Wales has done, and said austerity policies had left the NHS, the Health and Safety Executive, and local authority enforcers “starved of resources” even before the pandemic.
Newsham added: “Any COVID circuit-breaker must be part of a zero-COVID strategy, which includes high numbers of people tested, a high percentage of those positive cases traced, contacted, and people supported financially to isolate.
“Anything less would be an abdication of government responsibility and a waste of valuable time to get the virus under control. A COVID circuit-breaker must also ensure that all essential workplaces remaining open are COVID-safe.”