Under Tory emergency coronavirus plans ‘it’s helpful if you’re super-rich’

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel and Boris Johnson
Fréa Lockley

Boris Johnson has finally outlined the UK’s emergency plan to tackle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. And it took Labour MP Zarah Sultana just one tweet to nail the glaring omissions in the government’s plan.

“It’s helpful if you’re super-rich”

On 2 March, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that countries faced “[uncharted] territory” in coping with the Covid-19 outbreak, commonly referred to as just ‘coronavirus’.

On 3 March, the UK government produced a 28-page coronavirus action plan. It estimates that “up to one fifth” of the workforce could be off sick if the outbreak turns into an epidemic. According to BBC News, Johnson acknowledged it was “highly likely” the virus would spread and:

reiterated that the “single most important thing” people could do was wash their hands with soap and hot water for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

However, more useful advice is for people to stay home and self-isolate if they become ill and suspect they may have the virus. But this places millions of people on low wages or zero-hours contracts in an impossible situation. Because, as the Mirror reported:

Statutory Sick Pay, worth £94.25 per week, is available to zero-hour workers but only covers those on more than £118 a week – after they’ve been ill for four days.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) added to concerns, stating those “not eligible” for sick pay could “claim Universal Credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance”.

Among many other problems with it, Universal Credit is paid a month in arrears, so people wait up to five weeks for their first payment. As The Canary reported, this has already forced some people to use food banks and made others homeless. So people could potentially be ill, unable to work, and without any income at all under current Tory plans.

Sultana was spot on in pointing out that under this Tory emergency plan “it’s helpful if you’re super-rich”:

It’s a point that many other people recognised too:

#SickPayForAll

The hashtag #SickPayForAll started trending on Twitter. It highlights the impact of coronavirus for the UK’s two million workers who don’t qualify for sick pay, and also the inequality these workers face on a daily basis. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), this includes “1 in 10 working women and 23% of zero-hours contract workers”.

The TUC stepped up to support workers:

Others, meanwhile, shared experiences of working without sick pay:

And significantly, even for those who do qualify for statutory sick pay, £94.25 per week won’t cover rent, bills, and food:

Coronavirus is highlighting a far bigger issue of low pay and inequality for millions of UK workers. The TUC’s spot on in saying that it “shouldn’t take a pandemic to resolve the inequality of sick pay”. If the Tory government doesn’t act fast to resolve this, the very real dangers of hunger and homelessness for millions more people pose a far bigger threat than the coronavirus itself.

Featured image via ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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  • Sign the TUC petition demanding sick pay for every worker from the first day of illness.

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  • Show Comments
    1. I don’t believe in this corona-thingy, I think it’s psy-op for (perhaps to do with the stock markets), but maybe the Tories think your average pandemic is in awe of the rich and lets them walk by unmolested? While the different classes still don’t mix socially or in expensive places like Harrods, in modern life there are many places of interaction between them: banks, post offices, superstores, doctors, filling stations, and as usual the law courts, where the middle class tends to sit in judgement on the working class.

      It doesn’t have to be corona-thingy that makes the establishment realise why the Victorians put great value on public health–because the afflictions that wracked the poor were mostly contagious! When the rich come down with TB, diphtheria, lice-borne typhus etc, they’ll have to learn that allover again.

    2. Since this is a public health issue, the full cost to any individual self-isolating in order to protect others should be paid to them. There will be people who cannot or or will not self-isolate, either as a matter or necessity, or principle – why should someone self-isolate on behalf of a society that is not prepared to compensate them for doing so. The media is only just beginning to get to grips with this problem – if society wants people to isolate themselves, it needs to pay them the full cost of doing this. I cannot afford to self-isolate, so I will have no choice but to keep working. I will not place myself in jeopardy for this society.

      1. That’s an essentially-selfish attitude to have. Are you holding every member of British society responsible for the faults of some? Should pensioners who are most at risk if you become infected be made to pay a potentially-lethal price because of what the Tories and centrist Labour have done to Britain?

    3. If you feel yourself coming down with the covid-19, make an appointment with your local Tory MP to discuss this matter with them. Especially if they are in the Cabinet. Although I rather doubt this bunch of psychopaths actually do any surgeries.

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