Responding to COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the serious health inequalities that exist both in the UK and across the world. In response we have seen incredible kindness, and witnessed all kinds of actions to both serve our both communities immediate needs, and to tackle some of the inequalities that threaten to worsen the problem.

We are very grateful to the health community at this time of great need. We know that many of our members on the frontline are working incredibly hard and facing unprecedented and immediate challenges. Our team is here to support the Medact community in whatever way we can.

We recognise that this time requires an adaptive and emergent approach to a quickly-changing situation. What follows is our best attempt to capture and organise some of the responses from the health community.

We will be updating it as regularly as we can.

Steps we’re taking at Medact

Campaigning on inequality and Economic Justice

We will be adjusting our approach to campaigning in the coming months to give more focus to supporting campaigns that seek to address the health inequalities intersecting with COVID-19.

We’ve had over 700 signatures on our petition for a socially just response to coronavirus. Help us take it up to a thousand, by signing and sharing with your networks.

Our public health is only as strong as our economic & social fabric. Join our action

We published a blog earlier this month highlighting gaps in the government’s policy response that will undermine the ability of people to self-isolate safely and deepen existing socio-economic inequalities as this crisis unfolds.

We also supported the release of a new IPPR report, Care fit for our Carers, which highlights the low pay and insecurity faced by many health and care workers. We’ve also submitted to the Inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on homelessness and the private rental sector to show the link between housing insecurity and COVID-19 transmission.

Earlier in the month, we also signed a letter alongside organisations such as MSF, Global Justice now and Just Treatment to ensure that the vaccine made for COVID19 is affordable, accessible to all, especially those living in low and middle income countries.

Economic Justice & Health Group – Participants in our Building Economic Justice meeting shared accounts of what they were witnessing during this crisis, and discussed what principles and values should underpin our Just Response to the Coronavirus campaign, and what actions needed to be taken.

Going forward, our new Economic Justice & Health Group will provide a place for members to take an active role in shaping and progressing our urgent demands.

Sign up to be part of our Economic Justice & Health Group

Supporting the London Renters Union – We also began working closely with the London Renters Union, supporting their campaign to provide rental support and relief to renters. If you are a renter, please consider supporting LRU’s Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign.

Campaigning on Access to Healthcare

It’s been a really time for our access to healthcare work as we continue to pressure the Government for a better response to the coronavirus crisis.

Simply adding COVID-19 to the list of exempt conditions in charging regulations does not go far enough and many people are still unable to access the NHS due to fears about charging and data-sharing.

Campaigning for the suspension of charging regulations – We launched a joint statement with JCWI and Liberty which has now been signed by 70 civil society organisations. Our call has been gathering momentum and this month we joined the British Medical Association and 6 Royal Colleges in signing this letter, coordinated by Doctors of the World, echoing our demands. We also worked alongside 3 MPs to coordinate a statement, eventually signed by 60 cross-party MPs, in support of the BMA’s position. They have now tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the NHS charging regulations to be scrapped: we’ll let you know soon how to get your MP to support the motion.

In the face of overwhelming public pressure, the Government took an important first step in scrapping part of the Hostile Environment in the NHS this month: announcing that NHS and social care workers would no longer be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

While this is an important step, we are continuing to push the Government to scrap the surcharge for everyone – you shouldn’t have to work in the NHS, or be forced to put your health on the line during the crisis, to be able to access healthcare without facing punitive charges!

We helped Docs Not Cops put together this great video explaining why the IHS has to be scrapped for everyone.

Write to your MP – We’ve joined forces with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and made a tool to help you write to your MP, calling on them to continue to push the Government to scrap the IHS for everyone. You can write to your MP using this tool.

Highlighting the true impact of the coronavirus crisis on migrant communities. We worked with Kanlungan, a Filipino community organisation, to expose the story of Elvis, an undocumented migrant who died at home after experiencing coronavirus symptoms. He had been too scared to seek help from the NHS. We’ve been conducting research with frontline organisations supporting migrants to find out what impact the coronavirus crisis is having on people’s access to care. We used the preliminary results as part of our submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee, and will be publishing the full findings very soon.

We’ve also been supporting the Migrant Solidarity Group to promote the release of their research looking at the impact of NHS charging on children and their families – read more about it in the Group Updates section below.

Mutual Aid Resources – We’ve produced a range of useful resources aimed at mutual aid groups to ensure that people are aware of the issues facing undocumented migrants and can provide support in a safe and helpful way. We also collected all this info into a blog that we’ve published along with Migrants Organise. You can read it here.

Adapting our Climate Campaigning:

We were inspired by the attendance at our “Climate, Health and COVID-19” webinars, and have set up a Climate and Health working group to start taking them forward.

Find out about & join our Climate and Health Group

On International Nurses Day, Medact  joined Nurses United, Green New Deal UK and a number of other organisations, unions and individuals to launch the Build Back Better campaign calling for a just recovery from COVID-19 that prioritises people and planet. In the coming weeks and months, the Climate & Health Working Group will be looking at growing the health call in support of a Green New Deal with more creative actions.

Many of our Fossil Free Health groups are also taking time out to do some virtual campaign planning workshops and skills sessions with our new Climate and Health Organiser, Rob. Please email robabrams@medact.org if you’d like him to facilitate a virtual campaign planning or skill share workshop with your group.

Upcoming Green New Deal Webinar – Save the date for our next Green New Deal webinar on Thursday 9th July at 7pm. We’re excited to be joined by Dr Abdul El-Sayed, a former health director in Detroit who has written some interesting articles on how the Green New Deal can be a Public Health deal. Look out for more details in the coming weeks.

Adapting our Peace & Security Campaigning

We are publishing a series of blogs discussing peace and security in the context of the coronavirus pandemic: ‘Responding to coronavirus – intersections with war, militarised violence and the arms industry’. Look out in the coming weeks for further blogs on the impacts of international trade sanctions on public health, and the links between coronavirus and policing, prisons and immigration detention.

As our first piece explains, Gaza is particularly under-prepared for an outbreak of COVID-19 due to the impacts of the blockade and regular attacks. We joined this call with Physicians for Human Rights Israel and 17 international organisations for Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza and to put in place immediate steps to prevent the spread of the virus. You can sign this petition calling on Israel to lift its blockade and deliver sufficient medical supplies to Gaza.

Another looks at the Coronavirus Act, examining the impacts of extra powers granted to the police. This piece is particularly timely given research released this week showing BAME people are 52% more likely than white people to be fined by the police under coronavirus rules

We also joined hundreds of international health, humanitarian and civil society organisations in calling for an immediate global ceasefire so that people around the world can work together to overcome coronavirus, protect health workers and facilities and move toward peace.

With the recent release of the latest SIPRI report that has shown the greatest increase in global military expenditure in 2019 for a decade, we have joined 18 organisations in calling for the government to reorient spending to socially-useful production that tackles serious threats to ‘human security’.

We held a webinar on the arms industry in the era of COVID-19. Thanks to those who were able to attend and to our brilliant speakers. You can watch the talk on our Youtube, and listen to it in Podcast form.

Adapting how we conduct our work

We have postponed our conference and our Movement Builder is in touch with group coordinators to support alternative ways of campaigning at this time. Check out the Medact Groups Online Facilitation Guide.

Some Medact groups are holding online gatherings, you can find out about how to join these in our Calendar.

Webinars

We held a webinar on Climate, Health and COVID-19 – we will shortly be sharing a summary of this webinar, and following it up with additional climate justice webinars for health workers. And we have co-hosted webinars with the People’s Health Movement on a socially just response to coronavirus. Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming webinars.

Other things you can do

Adding health voice to key campaigns

We would urge you to add your voice support the following campaigns:

If you are leading a campaign on which a collective health voice may be helpful, please get in touch.

Alongside NEON, we have equipped a number of our members with Press Spokesperson training. We can also offer support to health workers who want to raise concerns and tell their stories in the media, or pitching them to journalists. Please get in touch with us – office@medact.org

If you would like to write a blog to host on our website that would be of interest to Medact’s movement, please see our Blogging Guidelines.

Do you have a campaign idea?

We recognise that health workers are the eyes and ears, at the frontline; and are working at capacity. If you’re a health worker who has an idea for a campaign you would like Medact to support or take leadership on, please get in touch. We can provide the platform and support you to build the movement on your campaign.

Other useful resources

We will be regularly updating this site and releasing new actions related to our climate and peace and security work.

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