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Pause the System coronavirus protest 4
Courtesy Pause the System

Activists in hazmat suits protest the UK government’s coronavirus plan

Protesters gathered outside Downing Street this morning to demand a country-wide lockdown

The coronavirus crisis is getting worse by the day, and while a number of countries are closing their borders and enforcing strict lockdown rules, the UK is facing criticism for its “complacent” handling of the pandemic. In protest against government inaction, a group of activists in hazmat suits descended on Downing Street this morning (March 16).

Wearing gloves and face masks, and cordoning off the gates with biohazard tape, the group, called Pause the System, are demanding the UK to be put into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demonstrators have three demands: to ‘pause the system’ by halting non-essential business and closing schools, as well as carrying out widespread testing and taking private clinics into public ownership; to provide basic income and full statutory sick pay for all people, pause mortgage and rent payments, and ensure marginalised and vulnerable people are taken care of; and finally to ‘transform the system’ to prevent future pandemics.

Dan Kidby, a spokesperson for Pause the System, said in a press release: “Universal basic income, full statutory sick pay, and the pausing of mortgages and rents ensures that everybody in society can be truly cared for, and get the financial support they need. In the long-term it will also help us reduce inequality and get back on our feet after COVID-19 passes.”

Referencing a recent report by researchers at John Hopkins University, which links the climate crisis to global pandemics, another spokesperson, Kerri Waters, added: “The science is clear, unless we act now on climate breakdown and end factory farming disastrous pandemics will be commonplace. COVID-19 has shown us how vulnerable our society is to the threat of pandemic and we need to take every necessary measure to protect us in future. This means changing our whole system.”

Currently, the UK government hasn’t banned public gatherings nor advised schools to close, two elements of inaction described as “strange” by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. It was announced yesterday (March 15) that Boris Johnson would be holding daily press conferences on the coronavirus crisis, as well as chairing another Cobra meeting today, in which ministers will discuss measures that would dramatically escalate the steps being taken by the UK to tackle the virus.

At the time of writing, there are over 1,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and 35 deaths, though the prime minister previously said that as many as 10,000 people might already be infected.