Monday, 21 February 2022

Wishing Covid Away

On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister said "Covid will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms." A preface to a sensible plan for coping with the disease as we head into the Spring months? Not in the slightest. This Thursday, all legal measures for mitigating spread and supporting people while infected with Covid will cease. And from 1st April, appropriately enough, free testing for the public is going to end. Boris Johnson said now was the time to move away from restrictions and rely on personal responsibility, a position the Tories have been manoeuvring for since the beginning of the outbreak.

I know some people think it's boring to bang on about Covid, but that might reveal something about their position to insulate themselves from or cope with infection. But for others, it's terrifying. The immune-compromised and clinically vulnerable, of which there are half a million of the former and 3.7 million of the latter, are not considered by Johnson at all - except for a promise to roll out a fourth shot for them and the over-75s. While the added protection this affords is welcome, vaccines can only go so far minimising risks for the clinically vulnerable. One cannot dive into a mosh pit at a Covid party and expect to emerge uninfected or with an inconvenient case of the sniffles: vaccinated people succumb to the virus every day, and others are left to cope with sometimes debilitating long-term effects. There is also no thought given to the mental health of millions who imbibed an entirely reasonable fear of infection, and are anxious about the enforced return to normal when collective efforts at mitigating spread are actively undermined by the government.

The Tories scrapping of the self-isolation payment and the end to its legal status has been trailed for a while. "Self-responsibility" here means employers forcing people into work where they risk damaging the health of the infected employee and passing Covid on to other staff, some of whom might be vulnerable or, for whatever reason, haven't taken up a vaccine. This was estimated to stand at around 6.4 million people in December. Naturally, those without second jabs or boosters to their name are higher. And even if someone has an employer who respects positive tests, they cost. The hundred quid they were originally floated at appears to have gone away, but making them available to purchase at pharmacies means the low paid, again, are going to find themselves priced out of taking care of themselves. Self-responsibility, but only if you can afford it.

The class politics of the moment could not be more stark. The state is withdrawing all support to prevent people from "getting ideas", an approach the Tories have extended to energy bill relief. The removal of Covid isolation pay, in the words of the GMB, "will keep people with Covid at work ... It will prolong the pandemic with more outbreaks." It's so obvious that simply pointing out how these two measures strengthen the hand of the boss class is to insult the intelligence of the reader. And the people most vulnerable to infection? Our people. Our class is most likely to suffer poor health, are unable to isolate or take time to recover, or even be vaccinated, and they deserve the support, sympathy, and solidarity of the rest of us. They certainly don't need a Tory government's talk of "restoring liberties" as their cabal tightens the screws on trade unions, clamps down on the right to protest, and works to muzzle the elections watchdog.

The Prime Minister can say he takes Covid seriously, and the Devil can cite scripture for his own purposes. Johnson's actions betray his intentions. He could not care less for the suffering his government has caused, the people maimed and the people who are dead, or for the misery with which millions are contemplating the immediate future. And for what? So employers can keep an eye on their workers? So commercial rents start flowing again? So the Treasury's deficit hawks can colour code some lines on a spreadsheet green? And that his appalling backbenchers are placated? We are in a damnable situation with those in charge caring for everything but mitigating the mass casualty event we continue to live through.

Image Credit


SimonB said...

Peston suggests monitoring the virus is stopping too. If this is true then we will be removing one of our greatest advantages. We might not notice a new, dangerous variant until it’s too late.

Graham said...

It is true that Boris is only motivated by his own and his class’s interests. However, that does not mean he is necessarily wrong over Covid, even if his motivations are dubious.

Things have changed and this change and its political consequences need to be recognised.

Omicron with vaccines is not the same as Delta without vaccines. They are essentially different public health situations. Not recognizing this leads to one of two errors.

Those around Sunak are using the present phase of the pandemic to argue that we shouldn’t have taken the steps we did over the last two years and that those behind the Great Barrington Declaration were right. Already some in the Covid Recovery Group are arguing for a commitment that in the future there will never be any lockdowns irrespective of the situation. This would lead to a complete disaster when the next pandemic arrives.

The opposite mistake is to carry on as if nothing has changed and increasingly appear irrelevant to the changing situation. I always thought that if Boris won his Omicron gamble, he would declare victory over Covid on the second anniversary of the first lockdown and the pandemic would fade as a political issue. He did win his gamble and the general public know it.

In this stage of the pandemic the left need to recognise its changed characteristics and generalise the heath argument, rather than concentrate on the specificities of Covid as those specificities narrow. For instance, instead of arguing for Covid isolation payments we should be arguing for full sick pay for any illness or injury.

Tomsky said...

You really have no clue about the ruling class psychological warfare which took place the last two years?

We should have crushed this tyranny from day one, with general strikes, calling for down with the lockdowns! Instead of letting the ruling class set new precedents in the class struggle for keeping proles in check.

Of course, putting measures in place for the most vulnerable, and making sure proper treatments with high quality anti-virals and anti-inflammatories (like ivermectin - brushed under the carpet, because out of patent and not profitable to the pharma cartels) were available, is as important now as at any time.

Non pharmaceutical interventions aside, on the pharmaceutical side, we were corralled into the belief that the toxic biological agents they're now pushing on us (masquerading as 'vaccines') were our only salvation. (Or if they did bring out anti-virals, they were in patent and, yes, toxic -eg Remdesivir.)

Now that the bio-security state juggernaut which had been rolling in has been held in check, at least in England (by those in civil society here who rightly opposed this shit show of NPIs and could see the dangers of a biometric ID / social credit / brave new world society), it's time those who would call themsekves revolutionaries stepped up as tribune of the people, and made sure these shenanigans never rear their ugly head again, instead of playing the Munchausen by proxy card - never has, nor should have had a precedent in the workers movement.

Indeed, Lenin would have had you shot in 1918 as a traitor to the revolution and the civil war effort for even suggesting such crap. And these were in the days when anti-biotics weren't even available.

Let us learn to live with terrorism then said...

Boris won his gamble if we ignore the mountain of dead and currently dying people, and we fail to take future variations into the equation. And of course that is exactly what we do.

Graham, of course, has been from the very start, one of those who put Weatherspoons opening above Public Health.

Graham no doubt will have climate catastrophe before Weatherspoons or Mcdonalds are allowed to close their doors.

For me, anyone who enters a Weatherspoons is not part of my class, but is part of the scum of the world, whose demise can not come soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. Thanks for saying it as it is Phil.

I think Keir is waiting for them not to win. Perhaps a good personal strategy if being the PM is the goal?

Anonymous said...

' I didn't break Covid rules when kissing aide'

Matt Hancock.

Where do these people come from...