Sunday, 9 January 2022

The Tory Surrender to Covid

The Tories and their press like their Second World War similes, so here's one for them. Boris Johnson likes to affect a Churchillian pose, but rather than fighting the Omicron variant on the beaches or, to be blunt, anywhere, he's raised the white flag. But this is something worse then Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy or, for that matter, the French authorities who declared Paris an open city just before the German army arrived. No, Johnson and his government are the Covid equivalent of Vidkun Quisling and his collaborationist government in Norway during the Nazi occupation. By letting Covid propagate in the schools, ensuring the mask mandates there are strictly time-limited and even dragging their heels on face coverings on public transport and indoors, if Covid was a conscious entity we'd be asking how large a donation had it given to their party.

And I'm afraid our Covid quislings are at it again. In the Sunday Times, we read plans are afoot to do away with free lateral flow tests in the coming weeks. The tests are only likely to be available in "high risk settings" while, simultaneously, the mysteriously over-expensive Test and Trace is to be scaled back further. The period of self-isolation is likely to be reduced from seven to five days to help the work absentee crisis. And all this while the country is posting record infections and between 200-300 deaths daily. Interviewed for the piece, health secretary Nadhim Zahawi said we are "witnessing the transition of the virus from pandemic to endemic", as if this was positive news. He goes on, "vaccines will get better and we are going to have polyvalent and multivalent vaccines by next year." These vaccines, which promise to target the body of the virus as opposed to the spike proteins Covid uses to latch onto and invade cells, are much more difficult for it to evolve around. In other words, Zahawi and the Tories are now fully committed to a silver bullet approach. As it seems are many other countries.

If we want to press the overused WWII button one more time, this is very similar to collaborationists enthusiastically carrying out the dirty work of their Nazi overlords right up until the Allied and Soviet armies roll in. As we saw with Delta before Omicron arrived, the Tories were content to let infections run hot, ensuring unnecessary illness, incapacity, and death, and straining the NHS right at the point exhausted staff could have taken a breather to prepare for the Winter wave that was forecast. Now we're seeing them doing exactly the same thing, except with hospitals overstretched, NHS trusts declaring major incidents, and medical staff being pushed to the brink - with the knock-on effect for waiting times and non-Covid emergencies. Instead of 40,000 - 50,000 infections a day we're at triple or quadruple that, with the flood into hospitals tailing infections. It was all so predictable.

One of the chief conceits of mainstream politics is that the number one priority of government and state is to keep its people safe. The Tories have disastrously failed this test time and again, preferring instead to prioritise capital and property. For the continued health of the wage relation and rent payments, tens of thousands have needlessly died: a clear cut case of social murder. And this is going to continue as we await for the vaccine cavalry. Now, some might not think this matters. We've got to learn to live with the virus, goes the tedious mantra. Here's what that means. Omicron is apparently less vicious than Delta, though the possibility of co-infection and the variants combining is quite likely, but the problem with all the Covid variants is the fact it's more than a respiratory disease. For one, there is nothing to suggest Long Covid is any less likely with Omicron, nor its symptoms less debilitating. Second, it is already well known that survivors are at higher risk of strokes and heart attacks versus other respiratory diseases. It's common knowledge Covid can attack the brain and potentially lead to long-term consequences. Hence the utter stupidity of letting an highly infectious variant run riot in schools where young people's brains are still developing.

The Tories know all this, but they're quite happy to let Covid do its work. At a minimum, it's paralysing the economy they pretend to care about with huge numbers of absences, not least where it matters most - in the NHS. And at worst, tens of thousands more people are going to suffer unnecessarily and die. They are entirely okay with this and the long-term health consequences that will entail, a habit of statecraft that has not altered one iota under the impact of the emergency and, if anything, they've retrenched in the face of the challenge. Unfortunately, with some notable exceptions in local government and Wales, Labour have been useless as well. At best, belatedly calling for the introduction of new precautions, at worst going along with the Tories. The unions have rightly looked out for their own members, and some members of the Socialist Campaign Group did try to push Zero Covid hard a year ago, but there's nothing joined up, no united labour movement-centred collective response. And for as long as this persists, so will the Tories' indifference to the illness and deaths of our loved ones.

Image Credit


Blissex said...

«if Covid was a conscious entity we'd be asking how large a donation had it given to their party. [...] He goes on, "vaccines will get better and we are going to have polyvalent and multivalent vaccines by next year."»

Well, one could think it is not COVID, but "Big [american mostly] Pharma" that is deciding the "not-public health" policy of "Washington Consensus" governments, and that their COVID policy is essentially a big marketing campaign for Pfizer and other "national champions".

«the Tories are now fully committed to a silver bullet approach. As it seems are many other countries.»

That seems to me because the ideology they wish to uphold is that only consuming products from "Big [mostly american] Pharma" is the compatible with the "Washington Consensus".
Covid Vaccine: How Big Pharma Saved the World in 2020
Miracle On Ice: So much went terribly wrong this year, and then the most loathed industry gave us vaccines and hope.
«The UK’s successful vaccine rollout was thanks to “greed” and “capitalism”, Boris Johnson has told Conservative MPs
the EU (European Union) Digital COVID Certificate programme only relaxes travel to and within the region for recipients of one of the four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA): Comirnaty (BioNTech-Pfizer), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Spikevax (Moderna) and Vaxzevria (Oxford-AstraZeneca). Among the vaccines that haven’t made the grade are Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm, Sinovac and Cansino; India’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, and Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that is produced under license by the Serum Institute of India. [...] Neither China or Russia [...] has approved any of the four Western vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and AZ). [...] When the EU green pass was announced, New Delhi reciprocated by declaring that it would only allow ease of travel from European countries that give mutual recognition to Covishield and Covaxin. Since then, 15 EU Members States have confirmed they will accept travellers who have received the Covishield jab [...] But recipients of Covishield, including an estimated 5 million people in the UK, are still barred from 12 EU countries, including France and Italy.
When Lifesaving Vaccines Become Profit Machines for Drugmakers
For middle-income countries, protection from the virus can cost governments dearly. [...] Many middle-income nations, not eligible for free doses under the global vaccine distribution effort called Covax but facing pressure on their health budgets, have been hit with bills ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars to immunize their people. The prices they’re paying vary widely; most remain secret, but numbers are surfacing. Estimated Lowest Prices Charged by Vaccine Makers
$31 Moderna
$21 Sinovac
$14 Pfizer/BioNTech
$9 J&J
$6 Bharat Biotech
$6 Gamaleya (Sputnik)
$5 AstraZeneca
In January-September 2021, BioNTech made €10.3bn in pre-tax profits, of which it paid €3.2bn in tax – though the company has several sites in Germany and has not said to which municipalities the money went.,LON:AZN&window=5Y

Blissex said...

«if Covid was a conscious entity we'd be asking how large a donation had it given to their party»

Always looking for the "bribe" is often just obfuscatory demagoguery, of the sort "Private Eye" is the major example: the system is fine, but there are a few rotten apples, the corrupt politicians. The UK is a bit of a special case:

* The corruption in the UK at the union level is usually not personal but by group, as groups do self dealing; that is in the UK Conservative voters are corrupted by their own self-dealing, and they elect politicians corrupted by the same self-dealing, notably the thread of self-dealing is property and finance rentierism. Mass corruption has even resulted (one symptom has been brexit) in a loss of control of the big=business elites over the Conservatives, resulting in Johnson's "f*ck business” and the vicious anti-Johnson campaign by the big-business elites in recent weeks.

* In the UK the ruling classes often still represent themselves in politics, people like MacMillan, Douglas-Home, Heseltine, Osborn, Cameron are not mere "lackeys of the exploitative bourgeoisie" like USA politicians, they are "bourgeoisie" themselves.

The more "professional" politicians are the New Labour ones, with the majestic example of Tristram Hunt, whose job used to be the herald/"skald" (personal PR spokesman) of Lord Sainsbury. In the USA instead:

Blissex said...

«if Covid was a conscious entity we'd be asking how large a donation had it given to their party. [...] These vaccines, which promise to target the body of the virus as opposed to the spike proteins Covid uses to latch onto and invade cells, are much more difficult for it to evolve around. In other words, Zahawi and the Tories are now fully committed to a silver bullet approach.»

There are many articles on the WWW about century-old anti-vax argument, but there were also arguments about the "pharma" profits of the day, for example:
The City Papers Cry
TWENTY THOUSAND VICTIMS!!! will be Vaccinated within the next ten days in this City under the present ALARM!!!
That will put $10,000 into the pockets of the Medical Profession.
DRAINS help the Medical Profession.
The City Papers Cry

That argument seems to me sound in these aspects:

* selling pharma product obviously enriches pharma businesses;

* many newspapers and many governments have been running a huge marketing campaign for pharma businesses;

* if one takes “CLEANLINESS, SANITATION AND HYGIENE” as meaning "the public health approach of test-trace-isolate", and “FILTHY STREETS, FILTHY LANES, AND FILTHY DRAINS”as meaning "half-baked lockdowns and loosening of public health standards” plus rejecting TTI, then obviously the latter help pharma marketing too, by creating a panic because of escalating cases and because of periodic business and job busting restrictions.

The disagreement that I have with the argument in that poster from 1885 is that we know now that vaccines are usually quite effective and safe, and that we need both first effective containment measures like TTI and later well developed and well tested vaccines, neither is sufficient.

Blissex said...

«Unfortunately, with some notable exceptions in local government and Wales, Labour have been useless as well. At best, belatedly calling for the introduction of new precautions, at worst going along with the Tories.»

Same or worse for the LibDems, and for the SNP in Scotland; it is often forgotten that:

* The Conservatives run the NHS only in England.
* In Wales and Scotland (and in most european countries) the death rates etc. have been not that different from those in England, sadly.

Graham said...

By March the Omicron wave will be over and Boris will have won (in Tory terms) his gamble.

On March 23rd he will appear on TV announcing it is all over, people and politics will return to normal and, unless you have lost someone close, memories will fade.

The Tories will claim their "middle way" worked and the development of vaccines was a triumph of free enterprise; the anti-vaxers will claim that, as they are still alive, they where right.

Sadly Labour will have nothing to say because they have had nothing distinctive to say over the last two years. They will try to take advantage of the public enquiry but nobody will be listening.

Nobody will have learnt anything and next winter there will be an other NHS crisis due to a rise in flu or Covid case. The NHS and social care will remain chronically underfunded and eaten way by the privatization initiated by the last Labour government with the introduction of PPI.

BCFG said...

This is not surrender, it is a deliberate policy to put Weatherspoons opening above Health.

We no longer live in the days when Health matters, the phrase, "as long as you have your health that is all that matters" has now pretty much been replaced by, "as long as you weatherspoons can open that is all that matters"

All those people who were calling lockdowns some sort of conspiracy to control us were 100% wrong, held a truth the direct opposite to what it was. of course, as with brexit, those in power knew it was the opposite of the truth but peddled it to appeal to their staggeringly ignorant base. Ignorance really is the child to beware!

Of course behemoths like Twitter, Google, that centre for woke hysteria, will ban people for the flimsiest of reasons, e.g. using the word deluded or Christ, but will happily put to the top of its search algorithms sites like the Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph, who on a daily basis not only publish headlines designed to increase mistrust in science but also peddle the most despicable charlatans.

The rest of the time they are simply clickbaiting!

But at least no offence is being caused, right!

Anonymous said...

On this, as with many other issues, Labour are incapable of providing any opposition. Labour are incapable of analysis or understanding basics that should come naturally to a centre-left party (such as public health). Labour has decided, a priori, that it needs to win over a set of very reactionary people in marginal constituencies and manically runs focus groups with them without any analysis of their opinions or what they are based on. Comments by individuals in focus groups become Labour policy with little consideration of the consequences.

So Labour supports government policy on COVID because someone said in a focus group that the Opposition should support the Government in an emergency. Unfortunately Government policy has been mainly a matter of too little and too late, while reversing policy too early. If Labour said that it supported the Government against the wilder ideas of its back-benchers and the gutter press, that might make more sense but would require acknowledging that some of these wild ideas have influenced government policy (and that the gutter press is a baneful influence).

The word "forensic" was used about Starmer by press commentators right up to the moment that he became leader of the Opposition and from then on the word was dropped completely. Labour at present is incapable of analysing anything, and CPVID policy is but one example.


Dipper said...

Every health care system experiences seasonal demand. The logical thing to do is to move resources from other areas to cope with the peak, which is what happens.

If you stock for maximum demand all year round, you will have a lot of people sat around on their backsides being paid to do nothing. That money has to come from somewhere. I must have missed the public sector unions queueing up to take a pay cut to fund this extra wasted resource. Once again, left wing politics make perfect sense in a world where everything is free and money grow on trees.

BCFG said...

"If you stock for maximum demand all year round,"

You have obviously not been on amazon lately. Useless shit is overstocked all year round and essential stuff is, well lets all pray it turns out for the best shall we!

The right are all about the magic money tree. For the left money is merely a representation of something else. It is the right who fetishise money.

Personally I am all for a grand austerity, but one that starts at the top and works its way very slowly down. The problem with Tory austerity is that it did not go anywhere near far enough and deep enough and fundamental enough.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, we need a resetting of all know values and more to the point a resetting of all known priorities.

Bring it on, lets chop down that magic money tree!

Blissex said...

«The logical thing to do is to move resources from other areas to cope with the peak, which is what happens. If you stock for maximum demand all year round, you will have a lot of people sat around on their backsides being paid to do nothing.»

* What about firefighters or the army? They are all “a lot of people sat around on their backsides being paid to do nothing” until there is a fire or a war. Sack them them all, and hire them on zero-hours contracts from agencies and call them in only when there is a fire or a war?

* If the spare capacity to cope with the peak has to come from somewhere urgently, it will usually have to come from people who are “sat around on their backsides" without being paid. How are they going to cover their living expenses? Usually by getting another job. Or are we thinking of hiring students during the summer holidays to cover for winter peaks?

Here two mentions of the moronic idea of hiring peak demand people "on instant call", the first from a demented startup:
"Exec (subsequently changed to “Exec Errands”) started off as us trying to fill my own personal desire for a part-time personal assistant / errand runner. I had enough random tasks that I wanted done and was willing to pay for, but didn’t have enough to pay someone full time. [...] Eventually, we came up with the first version of Exec, which we described as “Uber meets Taskrabbit”, where anyone from the web or their iPhone could call an assistant who would immediately start running their errand. [...] With Exec Errands, we paid out 80% of the $25 / hour that we billed for errand runner time on job. That means that all marginal customer acquisition, customer service, and recruiting sufficient supply of errand runners had to be paid for out of that remaining 20%. Paying for mistakes (workers messing up a job) or customer refunds quickly ate up any profits. [...] Most competent people are not looking for part-time work. The exception to this are people looking for supplemental income, but those people have full time jobs which conflicted with our high demand periods: mid-morning of the work week, Monday — Friday. Hiring new errand runners was expensive, and it was difficult to get them to stick around when we couldn’t guarantee work — the average utilization (time on the job / time available) was only 50%. [...] It turns out that $20 / hour does not provide enough economic incentive in San Francisco to dictate when our errand runners had to be available, leading to large supply gaps at times of spiky demand.

Blissex said...

«the first from a demented startup:»

The second, very appositely describes cretinous thatcherite policies in the test and trace system:

Their latest report is here. Key finding 22 complains that the government should have laid off tracers faster in the summer, although it did in fact cut 2,000 of them from the 17th of August: [...] Key finding 17, though, complains that the government was unprepared for the new outbreak in the autumn: [...] This is mostly about testing rather than tracing, but I still find it a bit rich. Looking back, what on earth was anyone doing laying off contact tracers in mid-August? And in what world would getting rid of tracing capacity be consistent with planning for a sharp rise in testing demand? This is what I mean about the NAO being unable to say anything that isn’t “public spending bad”. It turns out that the budget for tracing, as such, is some £1.3bn out of the total, and up to the end of October, some £478m of this had actually been spent, about £80m/month. This…is not very much? Why not a billion? Why not five billion? It’s only the biggest and most urgent problem we face! Why are we even bothering with this conversation? It obviously follows that the scope to avoid public spending wasn’t huge, either. The cut after the 17th was a third of the tracing capacity – I can’t believe I am writing this, but let’s be merry – so that gives us an idea. Applying it from the beginning would have saved £50m before the inevitable screaming U-turn in the autumn as the case numbers spiked. Also, you have to appreciate the implicit belief that the best way to form an effective team for a vitally important job involving emotional sensitivity is, ah, brutal casualisation. Amazingly, having just advocated sacking a third of the staff and rehiring them in the space of three months, NAO also complains that there is turnover! [...] all the idle tracer discourse, which takes up a startling proportion of the NAO report just as it does the papers, has been either complete hot air or else actively harmful. Interestingly, NAO notes that the testing system was significantly under capacity in July but doesn’t anywhere suggest that the government should have scaled it down to save money. There are things you expect of mere call handlers, it seems, that you wouldn’t say to white coats or Abbott Labs representatives.

BCFG said...

The Magic Money tree is clearly just a cheap way for the right wing to delude their stupid base of supporters. That much is obvious. BTW, when I say stupid base, I am simply describing how the far right themselves treat their base, and as it seems to work you probably have to acknowledge they are correct about that.

However, I think there is more to this Magic Money tree, for me it is something fundamental to a capitalist exchange system. It is the task of socialism to fell this magic money tree, which means abolishing capitalism and the rules and conditions upon which it is based.

The right wing give a very one sided version of this magic money tree, often to attack plans from the left, such as a national investment bank or reducing NHS waiting times. What the right fail to acknowledge or see is that this is just one side of the magic money tree coin. On the other side of the coin is, for example, Tory Austerity. Tory austerity is possibly the best example of the logic and use of the magic money tree I can think of.

Let us do an abstracted scenario to illustrate this, on Monday we have 20,000 nurses employed in 100 hospitals, using equipment etc. Then on Tuesday a Tory government say we need to get rid of 10,000 nurses. But why? The Tory government say, because we don’t have the money for it!

But those 10,000 nurses you are getting rid of still exist as human beings, there are still 100 hospitals and there is still all the equipment, and moreover there is still the need for their services. So where is the logic that we have to get rid of them? And the Tory government repeat, we don’t have the money!

This is the magic money tree in action, we have all the available resources but that piece of paper prevents us from deploying them on Tuesday as we did on Monday!

The task of socialism is to make the above insanity completely defunct, and to destroy the magic money tree once and for all.

Another example of the magic money tree was the series of bailouts to prop up the failed private sector. These bailouts worked very well and saved the capitalist economies from total breakdown, and yet all that quantitive easing consisted of was a long list of zeroes on a computer screen. Yes simply adding zeroes to a number saved the capitalist economy, now thats magic! In other words the magic money tree has its roots deeply embedded into the rules of a capitalist system.