Socialist Worker

Local lockdowns are a racist bid to shift second wave blame

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2716

Testing for Covid-19 in Bradford

Testing for Covid-19 in Bradford (Pic: PA)


The Tories are trying to blame ordinary people and scapegoat Muslims for their failures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced a series of “local lockdowns” across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire late on Thursday night.

The announcement that restrictions would apply from midnight caused confusion, with spokespeople unclear what their own rules were.

It came directly ahead of Muslim’s Eid celebrations.

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People will not be able to visit other families inside their homes or in private gardens. Buy they can continue to go to pubs, restaurants and other hospitality outlets with other members of their household.

Hancock’s half measures came as scientists warned the spread of the virus was increasing.

The official Sage scientists group warned that it “does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England”. The R reproduction number refers to how many people an individual with Covid-19 will pass it on to.

The Tories—as a favour to big business interests—have pushed for lifting the national lockdown before it is safe in order to get profits flowing again. They are forcing people back to workplaces without even a functioning track and trace system.  

So the Tory solution is to blame individual behaviour and minorities ahead of a possible second wave.  

Tory MP for the Calder Valley, Craig Whittaker, singled out the “immigrant and Asian population” for the spread of the virus. Speaking on the LBC radio show, Whittaker said, “What I have seen in my constituency is that there are sections of the community that are not taking the pandemic seriously.”

When asked if he was talking about Muslims, he reiterated, “Absolutely.”

Whittaker said, “It is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.”

Hypocritical

Mohammed Pandor, a Mufti in Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, says it was “hypocritical” to single out Muslim and Asian people. 

“You had a government adviser, Dominic Cummings, flouting the rules and they were making all sorts of excuses,” he told Socialist Worker.

“You’ve got to walk the walk.”

He added, “The government should have made him an example— and that would have spoken volumes.”

In Manchester, Labour councillor and executive member for neighbourhoods Rabnawaz Akbar said Whittaker’ statement was playing with “gutter politics” and “fuels racism”.

“I’ve been in the mosque all morning,” he told Socialist Worker. “People were all initially disappointed about it.

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“We were in complete lockdown during the last Eid and people were looking forward to seeing people outside of their bubble.

“After the initial disappointment, people are pragmatic and we know that minorities have had higher death rates.”

Mohammed says he is “really baffled” by arguments blaming Muslims. “Our mosques and community centres have taken so many precautions,” he explained, “We have an online booking system to come to the mosque.

“We’ve got teams of people managing exits and entries.

“People bring their own prayer mats, they sit in a specific place, and all mosques have markings on the floor.

“In some mosques, children and over 70 year olds aren’t allowed.”

Activists have to stand in unity against racist arguments—and say we need to put health and lives before profit.


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