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How do we think about the UK lockdown debate? Show more Show less
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The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented isolation measures throughout the world. One effect has been the creation of ideological blocs across traditional party lines, lobbying for different approaches to containing the virus. UK lockdown came into effect on March 23, shutting down non-essential business and movement outside the home, bar a single daily outing for exercise. Critics variously describe this decision as too late, too little, too much and overblown. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

The authoritarian position, or 'Do not lift lockdown!' Show more Show less

This approach is rooted in a belief that during crises, the state should centralise control of social and economic affairs. Proponents range from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to an estimated 75% of the British public.
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Lifting lockdown forces workers to risk their lives during the pandemic

With the economy in a state of flux, many workers will have to return to work if lockdown is relaxed. This situation is dangerous when there is no known cure, and businesses do not have to make guarantees on worker safety. Ultimately, people will be forced to risk death to stay financially afloat due to a situation beyond their control. Proponents include the UK Labour Party and trade unions.
covid health politics

The Argument

Allowing people to go back to work when there is nothing in place to ensure safe working conditions is reckless. No one should be allowed to return until their safety can be guaranteed.[1] In particular, pregnant women, people over 70, and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer will be at a heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure. By allowing workplaces to reopen so early, employers are not giving their employees an option to return to work. They are requiring them to do so. People's financial pressures and stresses will dictate them to return to their job or risk unemployment. In most workplaces, conditions are not safe enough for people to resume their work. The TUC (Trades Union Congress), which represents 5.5 million workers, warned that bad employers can potentially risk their employees to infection. Most Unions have been warning their members that the current guidelines do not ensure public health or safety. Many organizations and individuals are directing the public's attention to section 44 of the Employment Rights Act of 1996. This gives workers the right to abstain from work if there is a clear and serious risk present. Lifting lockdown so quickly would endanger the lives and financial states of many individuals.

Counter arguments

9.4 million people in the UK alone lost their jobs in June.[2] The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits has risen to 2.6 million. These are the stark figures that detail the depth and breadth of unemployment in the UK. If businesses continue to remain closed in the upcoming months, they simply cannot maintain the same level of productivity. As revenue further decreases, companies would have to fire more workers. Also, if workplaces were to reopen, many businesses would have to abide by government-issued or approved safety standards. Guidelines are already being put in place that people should maintain 3m of social distancing at all times. Shared equipment or collaborative spaces are outright banned or have severe restrictions. Lifting lockdown and allowing workers to return is the only safe way to preserve the economy and personal financial responsibilities.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/04/uk-unions-criticise-guidance-on-returning-to-work-for-being-inadequate
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52660591/source.html

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 16:12 UTC

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