The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has slammed Rishi Sunak after his ‘evidence‘ to the Covid Inquiry. The union body said that the PM – at the time of the pandemic the then-chancellor – “left millions brutally exposed” to coronavirus; that he failed to recollect “vital details” on over 20 occasions, and refused to accept mistakes on sick pay and Eat Out to Help Out after ignoring government advisers.
Sunak: ignoring the science
The Covid Public Inquiry heard that chief medical officer Chris Whitty called in May of 2020 for “an accessible offer of financial support” to help reduce the risk of “no adherence” to Covid rules.
But according to chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance’s diary, Sunak was responsible for “blocking all notion of paying people to isolate despite all the evidence that this will be needed”.
In a further diary entry in July 2020, Vallance provided further evidence that Sunak also sought to push back against the scientists’ advice. In one economics-based meeting, Sunak said “it’s all about handling the scientists, not handling the virus”, the entry said.
Lack of decent sick pay
At just £94 a week at the start of the pandemic, the average worker faced a £418 drop in earnings if they had to self-isolate on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
In addition, the Covid Inquiry heard Sunak refused to fund reforms that would have extended SSP to nearly two million low-paid workers who did not qualify for it.
The government belatedly introduced a self-isolation support scheme that would allow low-paid workers to claim a £500 lump sum if they were unable to work.
However, this scheme was poorly administered, unfunded, and hard to access – with two thirds of low-paid workers who did apply for support from the scheme turned down.
Covid Inquiry: Sunak ‘brutally exposed’ millions
Responding to the PM’s evidence, TUC assistant general secretary Kate Bell said:
Sunak said under oath that it was important to learn the lessons of Covid. Yet he failed to recollect vital details of public interest on more than 20 occasions.
And he refused time and again to take any responsibility for his actions.
Sunak was repeatedly warned by government scientists and advisers that people could not afford to self-isolate. But he dismissed their concerns.
The failure to provide decent sick pay and a timely and practical system of financial support for self-isolation massively undermined the UK’s public health effort. And it left millions brutally exposed to the pandemic.
Without proper candour and accountability from our leaders, we risk making the same mistakes again.
Featured image via the Daily Mail – YouTube