Brian Coupland is CWU Greater Merseyside Amal safety rep an Openreach engineer and member of the NW BT Unions Health & Safety Co-ord. Here he expresses his concerns for his colleagues in the workplace, relfects their fears, and calls out the Government for their lack of action in the face of a devistating virus:
As a CWU rep dealing mostly with safety, these last few weeks have become increasingly busy as the members' mood changed to one of real concern.
When the crisis unfolded in China it seemed a world away as colleagues shared similar views such as 'we'll all get it at some point', 'I don't see what the fuss is about' and 'I'm bored with it already'. It was being regarded like seasonal flu. My manager asked me to put a few lines together but circumstances soon overtook that with a deluge of information.
As the pandemic moved closer to home, overwhelming health services first in Italy, nations' governments scrambled to introduce drastic measures to slow infection rates.
Most people here have sensibly adopted advice such as social distancing and hand-washing. Symptom advice is clear. In practice isolation can lead to mental health issues in itself without support. Daily briefings are being released by all actors as circumstances change rapidly. This in itself can be overwhelming.
Openreach employees are now key workers.
If the warnings from the front-line NHS staff prove to be accurate, we were woefully unprepared, slow to react and it is going to get far worse. PPE and ventilators are in short supply for the people who need it most. London seems to be following the trajectory of Italy with the rest of the UK a few weeks behind.
It's at times like these celebrities should be banned from tweeting solidarity and support from their Jacuzzis or the idiots vowing to carry on not letting it beat them or Johnson's dad ignoring advice about going to the pub. Comparing it to the blitz is laughable, keep them off the air. Lock up the middle-aged English football-kit-wearing gammon singing 'we've all got the flu' to the Benidorm police trying to get them indoors.
Scientists only please!
They are saying avoid pubs, bars, even people unless necessary. Anyone who can should be heeding the warnings and not being selfish. That includes the bulk buyers. That clip of the tearful critical care nurse unable to buy food after a long shift emphasises the worst behaviours of society. As she points out, these are the people we need to support. There will be elderly and ill, the homeless and in fact anyone who is disadvantaged in this unfair unequal system in the same boat.
The reality is and always has been, it is us expendable ordinary folk who are at the thin end of the wedge and take the hit.
It appears that the focus still is on support for big business and protecting the markets. Ian Duncan Smith's outrageous claim that a universal basic income is a 'disincentive to work' shows how little they care during this time of national crisis. Surely the priority at this time is to protect people from harm ffs?
Boris Johnson's cheerful, daily pantomime assurances that we all need to be prepared to lose loved ones or the UK can turn the tide in 12 weeks are having the opposite effect on me, mirroring Donald Trump's false claims.
Repeating 'whatever it takes' will remain another empty sound bite. Despairingly half the population would still vote for this man. He's a second-rate Churchill wannabe, looking more and more like a rabbit in the headlights. How about showing some leadership and stop people mingling? As we speak the talk is of London going into lockdown. To me that only proves he has constantly got this wrong, and is unable to act decisively to protect the public.
If there is anything positive that can be claimed out of all this is the greed is good mantra, that they care, the wealth-trickling-down myth and ideological cuts on services don't have impacts are now exposed for the lies they always were.