Socialist Worker

New coronavirus rules punish ordinary people for the Tories’ failures

Issue No. 2722

Boris Johnson announces the new coronavirus restrictions

Boris Johnson announces the new coronavirus restrictions (Pic: Number10/Flickr)


Boris Johnson’s calamitous Tories are rushing through panic measures following a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

Gatherings of people in England are to be placed under new stricter rules, which Johnson refers to as the “rule of six”.

From Monday of next week a maximum of six people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors—with the exception of work, college or school.

The stupidity of the government’s plans was immediately obvious.

Ministers have spent the last two weeks demanding millions of home-working staff “get back to the office”. They know that to get to their jobs most workers will be herded onto busy and unsafe public transport.

And when they arrive, workers will find there are no guarantees their workplace has been made “Covid-safe”.

Astonishingly, those same people risking their lives to pack into offices are now told they are banned from socialising with more than six friends in a back garden.

Put people before profit to protect us from coronavirus
Put people before profit to protect us from coronavirus
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And the government’s hypocrisy extends to schools too.

The Tories have spent months telling us that pupils are barely affected by the virus, and schools must be fully reopened. Now millions of teenagers, who can transmit the disease as easily as any adult, are squeezed into airless classrooms and halls in a way almost designed to spread infection.

This is a “necessary risk” we are told.

Yet, if after school, a group of ten play netball or football outside, the government says that’s an “unnecessary risk”, and therefore illegal.

It’s unclear how the changes will affect demonstrations—but there could well be a further assault on the right to protest. Organisers of Extinction Rebellion protests have been threatened with fines of up to £10,000 under current coronavirus rules.

And two protests for LGBT+ rights were cancelled last week after police threats.

How will these contradictory laws be enforced? Johnson’s answer appears to be a new force of local authority “Covid Marshalls”. Presumably, their job will be to break up gatherings on pain of a heavy fine, and a call to the cops.

The Tories were backed up by professor Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical advisor.

Whitty pointed to how infection rates have jumped in the last few weeks, and the danger that poses to older and more medically vulnerable people.

He focussed on the steepest rises in Covid infections, which are among people in younger age groups.

Blame

It is true that people under 39 have been disproportionately affected in recent weeks. Johnson and the media are quick to pin the blame young people, saying they selfishly disobey social distancing rules and put others at risk.

But the truth is, that by going out and socialising they are following the government’s rules to the letter.

Ministers were desperate to re-open pubs and restaurants, and bent over backwards to promote a “summer of fun”. If anyone is responsible for the new spike, it must be the government.

Meanwhile, the largely privatised testing and tracing regime, which Johnson promised would be “world class” stands on the brink of total collapse.

Tories—not young people—risk our lives
Tories—not young people—risk our lives
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Home testing kits have all but run out. “Local” testing centres can now be hundreds of miles from your home. And laboratories are so over-run that results which should be available within hours are taking a week or longer.

This has led to led Johnson to “urge people only to get a test if they need one.” As if the problem stemmed from people deciding to test themselves for the fun of it.

The tracing system is now a standing joke. It aimed to reach 80 percent of the close contacts of every person who tested positive, but the true figure is 69 percent.

The Tories’ inept handling of the virus and public health puts us all in grave danger.

Yet the Labour Party has offered no opposition. Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the rules—and attempts by police to punish ordinary people.

“There’s nothing between the Labour Party and the government on this,” he said. “I believe that policing by consent and by consensus is best but the police do need the powers they need to back up these rules. So consent, but with the powers to back up.”

Johnson’s attempt to shift the blame to young people, is nothing but an attempt to distract us from the Tories’ terrible record.


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