Ten questions on the next phase of the UK’s COVID-19 response
8. What support will be given to those bearing the greatest burdens?
The measures taken in response to the pandemic do not fall equally on everyone: instructions to isolate or to work from home are incumbent on people having the financial and practical means to do so. Other measures taken have resulted in business closures (whether temporary or permanent) and loss of employment.
The state has a strong duty, founded in the principles of solidarity and reciprocity,46 to ensure that those who take on increased burdens are supported to do so.47 There have been various measures introduced throughout the pandemic, from statutory sick pay (SSP) being paid on the first day of illness, and to those self-isolating without symptoms; the furlough scheme; and a range of financial support measures for businesses. As various measures continue, campaigners from various sectors are warning that this is not enough: the end of the furlough scheme in October threatens mass unemployment and new restrictions on hospitality venues will have a serious, and perhaps irreversible, impact on many businesses.
The state also has a particular duty of solidarity towards healthcare workers given the additional burdens they bear in providing care within the NHS. At the beginning of the pandemic there were serious concerns around adequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and there are now similar concerns around provision of testing. These concerns will come to the fore again as the number of cases, and cases requiring hospitalisation, increase.