Iain Macwhirter: Lockdown hits low-income earners harder than the rest again.



Happy New Lockout. Continue HERE. As we did last time, watching Netflix while moaning and bickering on Twitter, those of us lucky enough to be able to function at home will no doubt sit this one out. In the meantime, the entire army of unknown citizens, the little potentates who contribute by doing nothing, will rush around to serve us.

Two Covid nations are here. The other half are the cleaners and forklift drivers; the drivers of trucks and vans, garbage workers, caregivers, food processors, farmers, on their bikes right down to the drivers of Deliveroo. They also serve families stuck in high-rise buildings. They are poorly paid and mostly come from “ethnic” backgrounds – in England at least. And they would, at greatest risk, be the new front line.

They do not have strong unions to lobby the government and the media, unlike civil servants and teachers. That’s because these jobs prefer to work in the private sector, which hires three-quarters of all employees but is now almost fully non-unionized. Just 13 percent of workers in the private sector are in a union.

One would imagine that in hospitals, the staff most affected by the coronavirus were nurses. It’s not so. When looking at mortality rates during the first lockdown, the Office for National Statistics found that most of the deaths were male security personnel, followed by warehouse and food workers and nurses. The record is likely to be even more distorted this time, as front-line staff are better covered and adequately checked (hopefully).

Oh yes – checking and monitoring. What did that happen? No one seems to speak about it anymore, probably because politicians would prefer to draw a curtain over our “world beating NHS Test and Trace” It sunk without a trace after issues with phone applications and the legions of volunteers who said they were never used, if you’ll forgive the pun. The Scottish version of Test and Protect suffered from “coding errors” which meant that thousands of carriers from Covid could not be monitored at all.

This time, better research should result in better safety for one of the most disadvantaged groups: patients in the hospital. The disease spread rapidly in hospitals among patients who were there with other diseases during the first lockdown. It is estimated that up to 20% of hospital cases of coronavirus in the first wave were “nosocomial,” as it is called. NB: This is certainly not an excuse to join the many thousands of people who died in order to be treated for heart disease or cancer because they did not contact their primary care doctor. Such “excess deaths” have yet to be counted, although there are several thousands of them.

Half of all Scottish covid casualties at the height of the first wave were in nursing homes. Our inability to protect the very people we knew were most likely to die from the disease was one of the least forgivable mistakes – this was valid even in places where the disease was not covered, such as Sweden – the elderly. For those under fifty, fatalities are exceedingly rare and the vast majority of casualties are over 70 and have pre-existing conditions. (And men are twice as likely as women to die from covids, according to the scientific journal Nature.)

By evacuating large numbers of individuals from hospital wards, sometimes without checking them, and putting them in nursing homes that could not secure them, the NHS in Scotland could have violated the rule. Ostensibly, this transfer of the elderly was to make room for covid patients in hospitals and to alleviate pressure on the NHS. In hospital wards, there is a perennial question of so-called “bed blocking” since there are not enough social care places for elderly former patients in the city.

But that just doesn’t hold water. After all, the NHS designed a whole chain of hospitals now named “Potemkin” – Nightingale and Louisa Jordan – which it realized could never be used for patients with Covid. Now we know this because they say they never had the workers to manage them (though why no one thought of that before they were built is another of the first-wave mysteries). Couldn’t any of the old guys have gone there?

In reality, I give


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