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Jeremy Corbyn says coronavirus response shines spotlight on austerity in UK

Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed by Sky News' Sophy Ridge. Photograph: Sky. - Credit: Archant

Jeremy Corbyn believes the coronavirus crisis has shone a spotlight on just how damaged the NHS has been by austerity.

Corbyn was unrelenting in his criticism of the government, condemning their lack of preparation for, and response to, the pandemic.

The leader of the Labour party highlights the current issues — including the shortage of beds, ventilators, protective equipment and staff — as an indication of ‘just how damaged our NHS has been by the loss of beds over the past ten years.’

He paid tribute to the NHS staff who are ‘working unbelievably long hours’ to stem a crisis that ‘is not of their making’, before criticising the number of tests administered as ‘far too low.’

Corbyn condemned the lack of preparation for such a threat, and says the pandemic must act as a message to ‘properly fund our public services.’

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According to the MP for Islington North, the political choice of austerity has made the majority more vulnerable, given its impact on both the quality of healthcare and the standard of living in the UK.

The difficulties surrounding covid-19 are compounded by the existence of an already-precarious society. As Corbyn explains, self-isolating is more difficult for those who live in inadequate accommodation, and absorbing the crisis is almost impossible for certain groups who the government are not protecting with their recently-announced economic packages.

He was reluctant to credit the government for these measures, though he largely welcomes their contents.

Corbyn claimed that they were the result of pressure from Labour and trade unions, and that they still don’t sufficiently protect self-employed people.

He described it as a ‘very marginal existence’ which often does not allow for the time required to access Universal Credit (around six weeks).

Though reflective of the dire situation, Corbyn was quick to laud the ‘greatest sense of community spirit I’ve known for a long time’, citing examples of the gestures of volunteers in his own constituency.

He refused to be drawn into a discussion on whether Labour had — to quote the leader himself — won the argument. Rather, he urged unity as the country battles coronvirus, saying ‘we are all the frontline now.’