COVID-19: Demand Serious Action on Health Crisis!

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The outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed gaping holes in Australia’s healthcare and social welfare systems. We demand the following from the Federal Government:

  1. Massive investment into the production of medical equipment, testing kits, and safety gear, which should then be freely provided to all frontline workers (including health professionals, sanitation workers, and others). Installation of public sanitation measures. Mass rollout of testing and contact tracing to guide further decisions.
  2. Grant unlimited paid emergency sick leave to all workers, including those on casual and precarious contracts or those engaged in informal work. In addition, welfare payments should be made immediately accessible for all workers who lose their jobs due to the health crisis or the broader economic slowdown it has triggered. All in-person welfare requirements should be suspended for the duration of the crisis. In addition, the government should prepare the capacity to organise the direct delivery of food, medicine and other essentials to vulnerable people during a potential crisis. Homeless people should be given access to empty properties and welfare payments. Rent and mortgage payments should be suspended. 
  3. Price controls to be introduced on essential medical equipment and drugs. There must be no hiking of prices on masks, ventilators, isolation units, beds, basic supplies like soap and hand towels, as well as drugs to combat bacterial complications etc.
  4. All non-essential services and production to be suspended, with resources transferred towards the social mobilisation against the virus. This includes schools, universities and shopping malls, with full compensation and financial support for all impacted students, domestic or international. There should be fully funded childcare arrangements for workers in essential services such as healthcare. 
  5. Requisitioning of all essential equipment from private hospitals and healthcare providers to be used in a collective healthcare effort. Private hospital beds should be treated as public. There should be an emergency expansion of the healthcare system, including training, rehiring and increased pay for medical and nursing staff.
  6. No scapegoating of migrants. International cooperation is necessary to confront the crisis. All sanctions should be lifted on Iran, one of the countries currently most impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, aid should be sent to the countries most affected by the crisis. Australia’s refugee detention centres should be immediately closed, with all refugees held there given proper testing, treatment and housing in Australia to prevent a devastating outbreak in the detention centres. A wider emergency programme of aid and refugee resettlement should be developed across the South East Asian and Pacific regions.
  7. The government’s approach to social distancing should be underpinned by education and support. In addition to expansion of welfare measures and guaranteed sick leave, we call for information on epidemiology and public health to be circulated widely, and frontline workers to be brought into decision making processes. Access to broadband internet should be made free to enable continued information and social interaction during lockdowns and self-isolation. 

Further reading:
Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now
We need more panic buying. Of ventilators, anti-virals and hospital beds.
Coronavirus: a disaster of capitalism’s making