Any loosening of the Covid-19 restrictions will feel like a relief to millions of people. But that can’t hide the sickening truth that by lifting more measures next week the Tories are again prepared to gamble with our lives.
The lockdown has been so long precisely because the government had to be dragged into making every move, and then applied them inadequately.
Boris Johnson tried to radiate hope and optimism this week. But in the background the government’s scientific advisory group Sage had a different message.
Minutes from a recent Sage meeting said there could be a rise in hospital admissions “of a similar scale to January 2021 after later stages of the road map”. By June we could be back to where we were at the start of the year.
That’s why there are repeated calls from politicians that everyone must learn to “live with the virus”.
The message really is that tens of thousands of deaths are an acceptable price to get everyone back to work and let profits flow again. We shouldn’t be living with the virus, we should be eliminating it. Vaccination is essential, but it won’t provide the solution on its own. Allowing the virus to spread unchecked will produce new and more virulent strains, not “herd immunity”.
The way out of continuing lockdowns and the threat of rising cases and deaths is to put people before profit.
That means a period of hard measures in order to give the best hope of squeezing the number of cases to small numbers. Cases can then be isolated by proper testing and contact tracing.
There are reforms under the system that can be put in place to make society safer. But many long-term requirements aren’t in capitalism’s profit-driven interest
This is what countries elsewhere in the world that have far fewer cases and deaths have done. This includes shutting down all non-essential industry, more workers and unlimited funds for the health and care services.
In-person teaching should only take place in schools that are safe—and not at all in universities.
Workers who can’t work from home or have to isolate should receive 100 percent of their wages.
Hotels and empty homes should be taken over to provide space and comfort for those trying to isolate in cramped accommodation.
All of this clashes with the interests of the corporations.
But anything less is walking into the appalling future the scientists predict—another wave of cases, continual lurches back to lockdown.
And there can be no solution on a purely national scale.
There are reforms under the system that can be put in place to make society safer. But many long-term requirements aren’t in capitalism’s profit-driven interests.
So ultimately this has to be a fight for socialism.