Why catching up with South Korea won't be easy | New testing plans to be announced | STUC launch £2 an hour key worker demand
The essential start to your morning from Common Weal.
10/01/2020 | View in browser
Putting the genie back in the bottle

The UK is going Korean. Having led with a herd immunity approach to this crisis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now said to be convinced that South Korea's "test, trace, isolate" is the model for Britain. That means forcing the rate of transmission down low through the lockdown, and at the same time building a high-grade, intensive infrastructure which can then allow that lower number of cases to be mapped and controlled. It's an epic u-turn, after the country abandoned all community tracing and testing on 12 March.

Catching up with South Korea is no mean feat. The Asian country reported no community transmission for the first time on Wednesday, in what is a remarkable success story. It's capital, Seoul, has ten million people alone. It managed to curb Covid-19 in a dense urban environment without a lockdown because it's "test, trace, isolate" plan was in effect from the beginning, and thus it was always able to keep on top of case numbers. Building that infrastructure while you are in the middle of a pandemic is a much harder thing to do.

"In South Korea the testing was conducted on a base of well-funded and efficient public services and an effective infrastructure, including widespread digital surveillance," Professor Jimmy Whitworth, Professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has written. "For other countries to emulate this success, much still needs to be done in terms of planning, organisation and logistics."

As Tae Hoon Kim, a South Korean analyst, has said, South Korea's high-quality public health service system was "fought for over many years".

"The irony is that for many years, Koreans believed that having world-class public services was equivalent to becoming more democratic and thus more western," Hoon Kim writes. "Many were unaware of the widespread privatisation and outsourcing of public services that was taking place in the west at the same time."

There is no magic wand which will suddenly reverse the short-term error of a Prime Minister who is said to have been resistant to an earlier lockdown because of a "libertarian instinct", and the long-term error of decades of neoliberal ideology pervasive in UK health services. But with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock both expected to outline plans to "ramp up" testing today, we need to look to what can be done now.

The first thing is that the lockdown needs to be defended from those media outlets and industry lobbyists who want to pressure government to put profits before lives. We are not even close to being prepared to exit lockdown. In a fascinating piece on US lockdowns during the 1918 Spanish Flu, historian Nancy K Bristow shows that we have been here before with serious social forces resisting the maintenance of effective quarantine methods.

"The authorities that resisted this opposition fared the best," Bristow finds. "Imposing 'shelter-in-place' orders, as well as other measures such as public masking and the quarantining of the sick and infected, saves lives. They can do so again, if we can find the courage and the resources to maintain them."

Second, the current testing regime in Scotland, which works on a two-pronged basis - NHS testing done via the Scottish Government, and community drive through testing, which is run by the UK Government - doesn't just need "ramped up", it needs re-thought. It's not only that not enough people are currently being tested, it's that there is no integrated system tying together "test, trace, isolate". This isn't a numbers game, it's about having real-time data and the capacity to respond to that data on-the-ground. Sturgeon and Hancock have to announce an action plan explaining exactly how that will work and who the labour force is that is going to do all that work.

As public health professor Devi Sridhar at the University of Edinburgh, who is a member of the Scottish Government's Covid-19 advisory group, said to the BBC yesterday, the mistakes that have been made have put Scotland and the UK "in a difficult position"

"Now we've basically got to put the genie back in the bottle.
Ben Wray, Source Direct
Top Story
First Minister to outline new testing plan; May Day key worker pay rise launch

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will outline plans to ramp up testing today.

The First Minister will insist by reaching "capacity" for 3,500 tests per day, the Scottish Government has met the target it set at the start of April.

In practise, significantly fewer tests have been carried out, with the average per day over the past nine days being below 1500.

Scottish Care have called for a significant step-up in the testing regime in care homes, seeking for all staff and residents to be tested as soon as a case of Covid-19 has been identified in a care home.

On Thursday, Sturgeon announced that all residents over 70 who have been admitted to hospital for any reason will now be tested.

Meanwhile, the STUC has launched a new initiative to coincide with International Workers' Day.

The Scottish trade union co-ordinating body is demanding an immediate pay uplift for all key workers in Scotland by at least £2 an hour.

The STUC said it would be meeting with the Scottish Government today to press the £2 an hour case.

Source is an advertising free zone funded by the Common Weal.
Please support us and help us continue our work.

Other news
  • SNP MP Alison Thewliss has accused the Home Office of "dodging scrutiny" during The Coronavirus pandemic. The MP urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to "get a grip of her department", as official letters and parliamentary questions have not been responded to. Questions include those about the protection of asylum seekers during the Covid-19 crisis. (The National)
  • Research by Durham University has found that one-third of Scottish firms could collapse during the Covid-19 crisis, as the country's "knowledge economy" is "unprepared" for a crisis of this nature. The research found that 79 per cent of the Scottish economy was made up of tertiary or quaternary businesses which were "not prepared with mitigation strategies for their complex global supply chains." (The National)
  • The field hospital set-up at the Glasgow Exhibition Centre should be re-jigged to help clear the growing backlog of non-Covid19 delayed procedures, Michael Griffin, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, has said. The NHS Louisa Jordan was set-up to support the NHS to cope in case demand overstretched hospitals, but has so far not been needed for Covid-19 patients. (The Times)
  • Supermarkets have been urged to welcome all families "with kindness and compassion", as some single parents have been turned away or abused by staff when bringing children with them to do shopping. Bruce Adamson, the children and young people's commissioner for Scotland, said the problem "was widespread and getting worse across the country". (The Guardian)
  • The Scottish Government has been urged to implement an immediate £40 a month boost to tackle child poverty. In a briefing by a coalition of five poverty charities, they outlined nine policy options the First Minister could pursue to address child poverty, which had increased to 240,000 children before the Covid-19 crisis broke. (Daily Record)
  • A Scottish based biotechnology firm has announced the discovery of two treatments for Covid-19 to be used which could mean a significant number of patients do not have to be put on to ventilators. ILC Therapeutics announced a new CEO, Dr Alan Walker, who will seek to streamline the development of the new treatments. (The Scotsman)
New on Source
Around and about the Scottish media
- David Pratt says farewell to Denis Goldberg, who fought against Apartheid (The National)

- Joyce McMillan says we will have to resist austerity after Covid-19 (The Scotsman)
Get in touch
Source Direct wants to hear from you, our readers and subscribers. Get in touch with what's going on or any thoughts you have.

And if you have someone you know who you think would like to receive this daily morning newsletter, why not send them the link to subscribe here.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign