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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 June 2020


Contact tracing fiasco: You can't believe a word the government tells us

  (Click to enlarge)

An NHS contact tracer

The track and trace system in England is now in its third week. Another brilliant success, if you listen to Boris Johnson and Tory ministers!

Like their other 'successes' - PPE shortages, testing failures, delayed lockdown and travel restrictions, care home negligence, escalating unemployment and more - the reality is nothing like government spin.

After many hours struggle setting up as a home working contact tracer, I successfully completed all the steps. Logging on after that I was excited to receive details of my first case. After re-reading the procedures and questions to be asked, I phoned the number - which blocked the service's 0300 number, so I could get no further!

Since then I've worked another 20 hours and had two further cases assigned to me - one of which went to answerphone. Matt Hancock claims "25,000 contact tracers are working hard". If my experience is anything to go by - and there have been similar reports in the media - many of us are waiting for any work to arrive.

When I try to book more shifts, the chart shows none available for the next month. A newsletter from the NHS assures us that more shifts are added daily. I've started checking daily - a trickle have appeared in mid-July.

This system has been set up in a rush. The government abandoned the existing local public health contact tracing on 12 March. These have long been used for measles, TB, food poisoning outbreaks and other infectious diseases. Local services coordinating with GPs are more likely to be trusted, have important local knowledge and - if properly funded - could have been stepped up to meet the increased need due to Covid-19.

Instead, the Tories are handing Serco up to 90 million to run the new national service. Amazon and other profit-making companies are also on the payroll. Many of the 25,000 contact tracers are part-time on zero-hour contracts, 18,000 employed by Serco and Sitel.

Telephone medical consultation recordings have recently been leaked by Babylon, a profit-making GP service, used by Matt Hancock himself. This will fuel doubts about confidentiality in the new contact tracing scheme.

A successful contact tracing scheme is vital, with full pay and practical support for anyone asked to isolate for 14 days. Investing in public health services, with democratic control by their workers and the people who use them, would be far more effective in defeating this pandemic than the Tories' big business system.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 17 June 2020:

What we think

Which way forward for Black Lives Matter protests?

Oppose racist symbols and the racist system


Capitalism = inequality. Fight for socialism!

Black Lives Matter: more youth protests take aim at capitalism

Contact tracing fiasco: You can't believe a word the government tells us


Youth without a future: fight for jobs and homes - fight for socialism!

Workplace news

Resist relaxation of Sunday trading laws

Debenham's protests: Workers must not pay price of Covid-19

Battle with BT management needed to win real pay rise


Tories retreat on free school meals

Parents' protests against Welsh schools reopening

Cumbria: Teachers, parents and socialists fight reckless school reopening


Tears and anger over the treatment of the Windrush generation

Film: Da 5 Bloods - entertaining but politically constrained

Campaigns and party news

Why we joined the Socialist Party

20 days. One town. Four domestic violence murders.

Fight for a socialist future!

Lessons from history

Reform or revolt? How was the slave trade abolished?


Scotland and coronavirus - a catalogue of government failure

Readers' opinion

Three years on: No justice for Grenfell, no peace from BLM

Two-metre rule under 'review' - Another case of profit before safety

The Socialist inbox


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