MP doubts UK self-isolation advice, as ‘non-essential’ work continues for many

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The UK’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,228 over the weekend, including NHS doctors for the first time. NHS staff are only just starting to be tested now, amid increasing pressure also for personal protective equipment to reach frontline key workers urgently. Remember when the deputy chief medical officer confidently stated on March 20th that the problems around PPE had been “completely resolved”? The latest Lancet editorial was scathing. Editor-in-chief Richard Horton called the handling of coronavirus a “national scandal”, and concluded that as a result of delays and inaction: “Patients will die unnecessarily. NHS staff will die unnecessarily.”

The papers today are splashing on the warning on Sunday by DCMO Jenny Harries that life may not return to ‘normal’ for at least six months. This does not mean that the exact same measures will be in place for that period, but that changes will need to be gradual, perhaps phased in and out when deemed necessary. NHS capacity is crucial. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are now both self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19. But are they taking the correct measures? Labour MP, deputy leadership candidate and NHS doctor Rosena Allin-Khan suggests not. Their vow to self-isolate for seven days in line with the UK guidelines is not in keeping with the World Health Organisation advice, which stipulates 14 days.

We have recently seen police forces use Twitter to boast of their new powers. Derbyshire police released drone footage to criticise people for dog-walking. Warrington proudly announced that people were summonsed for non-essential shopping. Labour MP Stephen Kinnock was publicly told off for visiting his parents to celebrate Neil’s birthday while following the two-metre distancing rule. And yet some are still being forced to go into work if their bosses feel like it. Jon Ashworth has demanded clarity on what constitutes “essential work”. Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard is urging ministers to “make clear that companies producing or selling non-essential goods and services must immediately end any requirement for workers to be on site”.

Labour’s leadership contests will finally come to an end this week, of course. We revealed exclusively on Friday that all candidates are being asked to send in videos of their acceptance speeches before discovering the result, which will be unveiled via… a press release. It will make for a very odd ending to these three-month elections, but then this is a very strange time to be reporting on internal Labour news. The future direction of the party does matter, nonetheless, which means we will be covering both coronavirus-related developments and LabourList’s raison d’être over the coming weeks. Expect reflections on the Jeremy Corbyn era, as well as thoughts on and advice for the next leadership team. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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