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Ending Covid rules good for profits—not people

Issue 2788
A Covid mask on a railing

Plans to ditch most restrictions could be deadly


Boris Johnson is set to end all Covid protection measures in a desperate bid to sure-up support for his leadership among the Tory right.
 
The scandal-ridden prime minister is expected to axe advice to work from home where possible, and end face mask rules in the majority of indoor settings on 26 January.
 
The news comes despite Covid-related deaths averaging over 250 per day last week, and almost 20,000 people in hospital each day.
The move to end the very limited restrictions currently in place risks reigniting the virus.
 
In a race between capitalist countries across Europe to return to full profiteering, the loss of a few thousand lives and the potential collapse of the NHS means little.
 
Tory chairman Oliver Dowden spelt out the priorities on TV’s Sky News this weekend.
 
“I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens (restrictions) puts hospitality, wider business, schools and so on under, and I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can,” he said.
 
But it is not only the right that is itching to “set business free”.
 
In Spain the supposedly left government of Pedro Sanchez, which includes the anti-austerity party Podemos is set to copy Johnson.
Discussing Covid, the prime minister declared last week that people would “have to learn to live with it, as we do many other viruses”. 
 
The French health minister Oliver Veran said that a combination of a high level of Omicron infections and vaccinations means we are seeing the end of the pandemic.
 
It is far too early to make any such claim.
 
While true that Omicron is responsible for far less serious disease than its predecessors, there is only limited information about how it affects unvaccinated and only partially vaccinated people.
 
Letting the virus “run free” has other implications too, as Dr Hans Kluge of the World Health Organisation pointed out last week.
 
“I am deeply concerned that as the variant moves east, we have yet to see its full impact in countries where levels of vaccination uptake are lower, and where we will see more severe disease in the unvaccinated,” he said.
 
Kluge’s point is that decisions about Covid policy taken in wealthy countries have huge potential implications for others—and that in itself creates a risk of more new coronavirus strains.
 
If in Britain the Omicron wave continues to slow, rather than ending all restrictions, it would be far better to prepare for the possibility of other new variants.
 
This would mean rethinking our approach to work and learning in an era of pandemics.
 

But for right wing Tories and supposedly left wing social democrats, forward planning along these lines entails too big a threat to the business of profit making to be considered.


Labour seeks to reassure bosses by pushing ‘live with Covid’

The Labour Party wants to prove itself as an alternative to the Tories—by parroting some of its most right wing politicians.
 
Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting wrote that people in Britain have to “learn to live with Covid”.
 
That’s the same slogan you’ll have heard from Boris Johnson and Tory ministers. 
 
 They mean people have to get used to thousands—if not tens of thousands—of coronavirus related deaths each year.
 
Streeting said the government and workplaces would have to adopt a series of measures to live with Covid.
 
These included demands left wing trade union activists would raise and fight for, such as improved sick pay, and safer, more ventilated workplaces.
 
He also said there should be a greater availability of Covid‑19 tests, and that surplus vaccines should be redistributed around the world.
But his announcement was a calculated appeal to the right.
 
He made it in the pages of the right wing Mail on Sunday, which jeered, “Now even Labour call for an end to lockdowns” and , “Tory MPs cheer major climbdown on curbs as opposition’s health spokesman says ‘We must live with Covid’”.
 
Labour wants to prove that it is more capable of restoring society and the economy to “business as usual” and full profiteering than the Tories.
 
That’s why Keir Starmer said on Saturday that Boris Johnson should resign “in the national interest.”
 
He wants to convince big business bosses that they can no longer trust the Tories, and should put their hopes in Labour instead. 
So Labour has to show it will keep up with the rush of governments across Europe to end all covid restrictions (see above) 
 
And that means—despite Streeting’s measures—in the end, Labour will put the interest of business and the bosses ahead of ordinary people’s lives.
 
Nick Clark

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