Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network has created a petition calling for mobilisation against the coronavirus. The petition is supported by SACC. The demands set out in the petition are a good starting point to bring Scotland's coronavirus strategy into line with international best practice and save lives. Scottish Government policy has been widely criticised for its failure to implement an adequate testing and contact tracing strategy. Common Weal's head of policy and research Craig Dalzell, writing in The Source (Testing, Testing, 1,2... 8 April 2020), says:
"The Scottish Government must change track now. It must adopt, in full, the WHO’s pandemic strategies and must do it quickly. Otherwise, we’re only weeks away from a catastrophe that was warned about months ago but apparently ignored"
Medical statistician James Urquhart (A room without a view, Sceptical Scot, 10 April) says:
"Perhaps now is the time to offer a challenge to the devolved administrations. If the Westminster-based COBRA machinery is too cumbersome and sclerotic to offer innovative solutions, are you prepared to develop your own strategies?"
Devi Sridhar, Ptofessor and Chair of Public Health at Edinburgh says, in an article in Foreign Policy (23 March):
"close contacts of virus carriers must be informed so that they isolate themselves, meaning colleagues at work, people in the same apartment building, or those who have been in the same cafes, shops, trains, or planes. This is a classic public-health technique and one of the only ways to build a robust picture of who could have possibly been exposed to the virus and be carrying it."
SUWN's demands should be taken forward by every possible means and urged upon MSPs and councillors.
The petition says:
- Re-start the mass testing programme throughout Scotland with immediate effect.
- Begin contact tracing, with immediate effect.
- Decentralise the organisation of the anti-pandemic campaign by investing responsibility in local authorities to conduct mass community based research programmes to assess the extent of infection within our communities, through the mobilisation of suitably equipped volunteers who could distribute and collect questionnaires and colour coded posters, as well as tools such as the Kings College symptom tracking app, which is producing a great deal of invaluable data.
- Initiate a national program to draw in all firms, institutions, local organisations and individual households with the requisite skills and provide them with the resources to produce the much needed PPE, the lack of which is having a seriously detrimental impact in our attempts to control the pandemic.
Why is this important?
The campaign to defeat the Coronavirus epidemic is being hampered by the serious lack of PPE that is available to our front-line health and care workers as well as the general population. To this end, we call on the Scottish Government to organise a national mobilisation in order to produce these much needed resources, through a national appeal and requisitioning of companies, small firms and institutions (as well as drawing in individual households with the requisite skills) to produce masks and scrubs, as has happened in other countries, notably the Czech Republic (Czechs get to work making masks after government decree, The Guardian, 30 March ).
We further call on the Scottish government to initiate a campaign of mass testing of ALL frontline health workers, care workers, essential workers and the general population and of contact tracing, as has been successfully done in other countries, notably South Korea (What the world can learn from South Korea’s coronavirus strategy, Wired, 21 March . In the immediate term, if mass testing cannot be rolled out, then local authorities, volunteer organisations and mutual aid groups should be mobilised to undertake mass local research and knowledge gathering programs throughout Scotland, comprising local authority workers and suitably equipped volunteers who would survey their local areas to determine, on the basis of symptoms, the extent to which the pandemic has spread – this could be done, as was the case in Ballachulish (Scotland's unique way to treat the coronavirus, C4 News, 21 March), through the use of colour coded posters indicating the number of people in individual households who are exhibiting symptoms, as well as through the use of devices such as the symptom tracker being rolled out by Kings College, London.
We need these resources and information at the earliest instance, as the lack of certainty over who has the virus is not only hampering contact tracing, and thus our ability to defeat the pandemic, it is also having a huge impact on the psychological well-being of the nation, as is the lack of PPE available to our frontline heath and care workers, and the general population.