So now we’re to “Stay alert, Control the virus, Save lives” and follow new emergency health guidelines that sent confusing signals to the public last weekend. Boris Johnson tells us that everyone who cannot work from home should now be “actively encouraged” to return to work.
The Prime Minister says we can spend as long as we like in the parks and meet with one other person from outside our own household providing we stay outdoors. But his deputy Dominic Raab got into a hopeless muddle about the size and nature of such gatherings when talking to the BBC the following day.
We’re told avoid public transport and walk or cycle to work if possible. Whilst the current subsidies for furloughed workers and the self-employed will continue in the near future the Government is clearly preparing to phase them out. Ministers say the death toll and the rate of infection is going down whilst scientists warn that a premature easing of restrictions could lead to a “second wave” of the coronavirus plague.
No wonder Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite the Union, says “millions of people” would be “dumbfounded” by the Government’s plan. The leader of the largest union in the country said: “The Prime Minister's response last night was both confusing and disbelieving…listening to Dominic Raab, I'm wondering why we didn't wait until we've seen the 50-page document and the guidelines that are about to come out before there was any indication about going back to work.”
Meanwhile NHS staff, transport and care home workers risk their lives because of the scandalous lack of personal protective equipment whilst hundreds die in hospital every day as the deadly infection continues to sweep across the country.
More and more people are beginning to see through Johnson’s fake bonhomie these days. Far from being the new Churchill of his dreams, he is nothing more than a political charlatan who cannot come to grips with the enormity of the crisis the country is in. Labour should be running rings around him. Sadly Sir Keir Starmer is just not up to it.
Starmer’s wooden performance in parliament and his apparent lack of empathy with the working people he claims to lead have failed to inspire the millions that once rallied to Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Some even say, not only in jest, that Piers Morgan who regularly demolishes Tory ministers who dare to appear on his breakfast TV slot would make a better opposition leader than Starmer despite the fact that Morgan voted Conservative at the last election.
Government figures say that some 40,000 people have died, so far, from the coronavirus infection. Others say the real death-toll, when all the deaths in care homes are factored in, is much, much higher. What is certain is that Britain has the highest death rate in the whole of Europe.
The easing of the lock-down has led to a surge in the numbers returning to work in central London. Trains and buses are, once again, packed in the rush hours, firing fears that a new round of infection will spread like wild-fire across the capital.
The first line of defence is the trade unions. Every employer should ensure protective clothing for their staff and provide their work-force with a coronavirus-secure risk assessment. No one should lose their job because of the crisis. No one should go back to work without the agreement of the unions.