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Move to restart economy is driven by state’s rivalry

This article is over 4 years, 2 months old
Issue 2700
Despite the risk, people in Spain are being forced back to work
Despite the risk, people in Spain are being forced back to work (Pic: PA)

Global deaths from the ­coronavirus surpassed 100,000 at the end of last week. In many countries there is no let-up in the grim statistics of infection and deaths.

Yet already governments across the world are anxious to force through a return to work so that profit-making can begin again.

The Tories are torn between ­wanting to end the lockdown and their fear that a sharp rise in the virus death rate could harm them politically.

When the lockdown started Boris Johnson pledged to have a review after three weeks. This deadline passed on Monday. 

Ministers who want to ease the lockdown are themselves split on whether measures should be relaxed at the start of May, when the next review is due, or whether to delay until the end of that month. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be among those pushing for an early easing of restrictions.

The government is reported to be considering a sector by sector end to the lockdown.


Transport workers could be one of the first groups to be sent back as part of a drive to “get the economy moving again” that could also see schools re-opened.

The Tories will not want to see international competitors lifting their lockdowns while Britain continues with its constraints.

In Spain restrictions were to be eased on over three million “key ­workers” this week.

The supposed “left” ­government of the Socialist party and the ­once-radical Podemos is gambling with workers’ lives.

Hundreds are still dying every day in a country that has the highest rate of deaths per one million of the population of anywhere in the world.

The number of deaths from the virus rose sharply from 510 on Saturday to 619 on Sunday.

Yet whole sections of the economy are now said to be “safe”. Swathes of industrial and construction sites are having restrictions on working lifted.

In addition petrol stations, ­tobacconists, pet food shops, ­e-commerce operations and dry cleaners will be allowed to operate.

In Italy, one of the hardest hit countries, prime minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy, “can’t wait for the virus to disappear completely” before restarting the economy.

He has announced that, after talks with Italy’s unions, some businesses would reopen soon.

A return to work while death tolls are still rising could lead to a “deadly resurgence” of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.

But despite this profits are at the forefront of the minds of the ruling elite. This attitude was exemplified by Mervyn King, who was the ­governor of the Bank of England during the 2008 financial crash.

“I think that given that a vaccine is a long way away, an exit strategy is going to be a process of trial and error,” he said.

Workers must not be forced to go back to work. And “trial and error” will result in many more deaths. 

Union leaders must be pushed not to agree any such return to work until it is genuinely safe.

Iran risks ‘second wave’

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani relaxed social distancing rules last week.

He urged businesses considered to be “low risk” to reopen.

Most companies in the capital Tehran were not due to reopen formally until 18 April, but travel has already intensified, leading to a build-up of traffic.

Figures released on Sunday showed that 117 people had died from Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.

The number of newly infected people was 1,657. This is down from the figure of 2,875 some eleven days ago but remains high.

Iran’s senior medical organisation expressed concern that the relaxation “was being introduced without considering the scientific and executive justifications for the project, or the threat that the past efforts of all people, officials and medical staff will be wasted”.

Reopening businesses that are now closed might lead to a “second wave of coronavirus” said the chair of Tehran city council.

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