Martin Shelley reports – 

Over the past few weeks the Covid-19 outbreak has brought out the best in many individuals and organisations – and sparked some welcome generosity from the corporate sector too – but not everyone has been so selfless. Here’s The Lowdown’s guide to help you sort the saints from the sinners:


Saints:

The nurses, doctors and support staff who have died and continue to die after contracting the virus. As of April 7, FIFTEEN had lost their lives fighting to save others: Habib Zaidi; Adil El Tayar; Amged El Hawrani; Alfa Sa’adu; Thomas Harvey; Areema Nasreen; Aimee O’Rourke; Sami Shousha; John Alagos; Glen Corbin; Lynsay Coventry; Liz Glanister; Carol Jamabo; Jitenda Rathod and Cathy Sweeney. Sadly the numbers continue to increase each day.

Supermarkets, for ring-fencing certain times of the day for emergency workers only. Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have all come on board, as have Morrisons and Waitrose. Lidl, meanwhile, has teamed up with the Royal Voluntary Service to donate fresh fruit and veg bags to hospitals across the UK.

The restaurant chains which offered free food deliveries to hospitals before having to pull down the shutters – Greggs, Nando’s, Mcdonalds and Pret a Manger are just some of those who took part.

Uber and Deliveroo, for stepping up to the free-food delivery plate, with the former offering free trips to help NHS staff get to and from work, together with £10 food vouchers, and with the latter set to deliver half-a-million free hot dishes – albeit pre-paid by members of the public – to NHS sites.

The Leon chain – already offering 50 per cent discounts on takeaway and delivery meals to NHS workers – for launching FeedNHS, a not-for-profit fundraising drive aimed at delivering nearly 6,000 free meals to critical care staff in London.  Matt Lucas and the production team of the Baked Potato Song for backing FeedNHS.

In other food-related moves, Borough Market trader Turnips has joined up with new initiative Feed the Frontline to deliver fruit and veg to frontline workers at three London hospitals, and a group of London residents has set up online service mealsforthenhs so people can donate to pay for deliveries of meals to hungry medical staff: so far they have raised £880,000.

Glasgow-based Brew Gooder has set up its own pre-paid scheme, ‘One On Us’, so NHS workers can wash down their free meals with a well-earned four-pack.

The multimillionaire former boss of the McLaren F1 team Ron Dennis has co-founded SalutetheNHS.org to provide a million free meals to critical-care staff.

Other initiatives by brewers such as Shepherd Neame and distilleries to produce hand sanitiser for the NHS.

From the world of football, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, for opening up the two hotels he co-owns with former team-mate Ryan Giggs free of charge to health workers during the Covid-19 crisis. Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha has offered 50 London homes to NHS staff tackling coronavirus.  Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has also offered free accommodation to NHS staff, at the hotel on that club’s Stamford Bridge site.

The Saga Group, for offering up two cruise ships berthed at Tilbury Dock in London for use as floating hospitals or accommodation for NHS staff.

Best Western, for turning two of its properties in Dorset into discharge facilities for four local hospitals.

Housebuilder McCarthy & Stone, for offering new apartments to temporarily house NHS key workers or older people recovering from Covid-19.

The University of East London, for making 500 rooms available to doctors and nurses working at the nearby field hospital at the ExCel centre.

Toiletries company Unilever, for adapting its manufacturing capacity to produce hand sanitiser for use in hospitals.

The Mercedes F1 team, whose breathing aid device for Covid-19 patients, developed jointly with University College London engineers and clinicians at UCLH, has already been approved for clinical use.

Clothing company Burberry, for retooling its Yorkshire factory to make surgical masks for the NHS.

Folding bicycle maker Brompton, for providing 200 bikes for hire, free of charge, to NHS staff, and NCP, for offering free parking to car-driving frontline health workers.

Will-writing company Farewill, for waiving fees for NHS staff, after noting a huge increase in requests from health workers in recent weeks.

More than 750,000 public-spirited citizens, for signing up to the government’s volunteer NHS ‘army’, tasked with helping vulnerable people to self-isolate.

Everyone who emerged from lockdown to clap in support of NHS workers at the now-regular 8pm events each week.


Cross benchers:

Health secretary Matt Hancock gets positive points for announcing that the NHS’ historic debt of £13.4bn was to be written off and that its spending ‘roof’ would be lifted  – but loses them for repeatedly giving misleading statements on supplies of personal protection equipment  and claims to be “ramping up” testing, perpetuating confusion over access to testing kits. This has enabled one private health clinic to quietly up the price of its home delivery kits by £100 (to £249) at the same time as admitting the tests were yet to be approved. Hancock also admitted on BBC Question Time to being unaware that nurse deaths were not being counted among official Covid-19 mortality figures.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak gets plus points for pledging that the health service would get “whatever it needs”, in addition to the announcements in the spring Budget, but loses them for failing to protect small and medium sized businesses which are being forced to shut during the lockdown, but promised only bank loans at unaffordable rates of 20-30% interest, and making no credible provision to support self-employed and low-waged workers.

The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company, owner of the ExCeL centre now converted into the Nightingale field hospital for the NHS, lost points for initially charging the NHS for “a contribution to some fixed costs”, said to be a rental charge of between £2m and £3m. But it gained points back when the company’s chief executive later said that those costs would now be covered by the company itself. The NEC in Birmingham, also being converted to a field hospital, has reportedly been provided to the NHS for free from the outset.

Premier League clubs which committed just £25m to support the NHS, despite a recent Forbes assessment that “just 12 of the richest Premier League [club] owners had a combined worth of £74bn”. Although their players, led by the efforts of Jordon Henderson are now organizing their own financial support for NHS charities.


Sinners:

Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s now former chief medical officer, who stood down after it emerged that she had twice visited her second home, flouting her own advice against non-essential travel during the Covid-19  outbreak.

The Department of Health, for its string of contradictory announcements in late March about home abortions and the risk of Covid-19 transmission during clinic visits.

The 47-year-old man who vandalised eight ambulances in Kent forcing them to be taken out of service.

The 43-year-old man who deliberately coughed in the face of a paramedic attending a call-out in Stroud.

Celebrities publicly announcing their Covid-19 status, thanks to the easy availability of testing for those who can afford it, while NHS frontline workers have been routinely denied access to this simple procedure.

Ministers and the Department of Health for continuing to claim that there’s enough PPE (personal protection equipment) to allow hospital staff to do their jobs safely, while NHS Supply Chain, even with army help, has failed to deliver the right mix of kit to hospitals, GPs and care homes. The chair of the Doctors’ Association told Sky News that some doctors were “holding their breath” during procedures on Covid-19 patients because they had so little confidence in the effectiveness of their PPE.

Retailers cashing in on panic buying by raising prices. During the last two weeks of March the cost of cough and cold treatments rose by more than ten per cent, and products such as paracetamol and hand wipes saw price increases equivalent to an annual inflation rate of 53 per cent.

The Department of Health’s ‘not-for-profit’ agreement with the private hospital sector, under which the NHS is set to gain extra beds and staff during the pandemic. Despite the ‘no profit’ claims, the taxpayer will still pay for the private sector’s operating costs, overheads, use of assets and rent – with reports suggesting this represents a daily charge to the NHS of £2.4m, or £300 per bed.

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