Inside the System

Rich get special access to tests and treatment in the US

In the US, the rich are demanding special access to testing and medical care to deal with coronavirus.

Despite the shortage of testing has meant there are strict criteria for the general public to access them. In New York, California and other hard hit areas they have been restricted to health care workers and those admitted to hospital with severe cases.

Yet celebrities and the wealthy have been able to skip the queue.

Dr. David Nazarian, a private concierge doctor in Los Angeles, is organising house visits to perform tests for ultra-wealthy clients who would not be allowed tests through the hospital system, according to Business Insider.

Actor Idris Elba was able to organise a test to confirm he had the virus within days of contact with another person who got sick, despite having developed no symptoms.

The billionaire Joe Tsai, owner of the elite NBA Brooklyn Nets basketball team, organised to test the whole team at a private lab, despite many having no symptoms. Four of them actually tested positive.

Other NBA teams then also demanded tests, despite not meeting the official criteria. The Los Angeles Lakers, who had recently played the Nets, were tested straight away, as were players from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.

A private London clinic is offering tests to anyone prepared to pay $700, but the waiting list is so long only the well-connected can even make a booking.

Ventec Life Systems, which produces portable ventilators, has also received numerous requests to buy a personal ventilator, from wealthy clients prepared to pay any price, according to the company. It does not sell to individuals.

In the US, one woman who tested positive for COVID-19, Danni Askini, was hit with a $34,927 bill for her testing and treatment because she had no health insurance.

Another Miami man, Osmel Martinez Azcue, simply asked to be tested after returning from China with flu-like symptoms. He wasn’t able to get a coronavirus test because of limited insurance, but did have a test which confirmed he had the flu.

His bill was $3270, which included $1400 in out of pocket charges.

Donald Trump has not shown much sympathy, responding to anger that the elite have been able to jump the queue by musing, “perhaps that’s been the story of life.”

Italian 3D printed ventilator valves illegal

An Italian engineer has worked out how to 3D print a key ventilator component needed to treat coronavirus patients. But the medical company that owns the patent told him his actions were an illegal breach of their patent.

Cristian Fracassi, who works for an engineering startup, produced 100 of the valves, which need to be replaced for each patient, for free and gave them to his local hospital in Brescia. So far they have saved at least ten lives. The hospital had run out of valves, and the company that makes them was unable to supply more.

He says he can produce them for around $5 each. But Fracassi has been unable to help others by sharing the design file, despite numerous requests, after being told it was illegal.

Rich jet off to self-isolate in luxury

The obscene consequences of inequality are on display through the pandemic, as the rich and powerful do everything they can to safeguard themselves. Some have opted for self-isolation in remote locations like the Galapagos Islands or Alaska.

The Ten Lifestyle Group’s Alex Cheatle said, “Private jets are certainly in high demand at the moment. It’s not been a huge thing, but we have certainly seen an increase.”

Another option is stocking up a private yacht. “People are looking for ways to weather the storm and a yacht in a nice climate isn’t a bad place to self-isolate,” Jonathan Beckett, chief executive of London yacht broker Burgess told The Telegraph.

Coles gets 36,000 job applications in a day

Supermarkets are one of the few places recording increased sales as people stock up in the face of the coronavirus.

But in a sign of the desperation for jobs, when the company advertised 5000 new jobs on 17 March, it received 36,000 applications in one day. An average day sees it receive 800 applications.

Elites have more trust in government

It’s not news that trust in government is running low. And a Prime Minister who heads off to Hawaii during an unprecedented bushfire crisis, and shamelessly spends up on swimming pools in an election campaign shows why.

But Edelman’s newly released “Trust Barometer” has found workers are far less trusting in institutions than others. There is a big gulf in the level of trust in government between the university-educated middle class and the rest of the population, it showed.

Australia had the biggest gap of the developed countries—with just 45 per cent trust in institutions among what it called the “mass population”—the bulk of the working class, compared to 68 per cent for what it called the “informed public”. To qualify as part of the “informed public” a person was required to have university education, significant media consumption and a household income in the top 25 per cent.

This is hardly surprising in a world set up to benefit the rich. But it’s also a reminder why not everyone trusts the patronising directives from Scott Morrison to stop panic buying in supermarkets or pay attention to health advice.

Casino’s special deal on coronavirus

Crown Casino in Melbourne was granted a special exemption from Victorian government social distancing laws limiting gatherings to 100 people.

The casino was allowed to devise its own distancing measures through switching off every second pokie machine and limiting numbers at its ballrooms, bars, restaurants and venues.

By the end of the week the Andrews government was forced to back down—saying the same rules would apply to Crown as to everywhere else. Last year the casino paid the state government $238 million in tax.


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