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UK: Covid 19 – Johnson’s plan puts profits before people

Thursday 26 March 2020, by siawi3

Source: • Socialist Resistance. Posted on 17th March 2020:

Britain: Covid 19 – Johnson’s plan puts profits before people

Tuesday 17 March 2020,

by Frank MORRIS

As the Covid-19 virus spreads, the lack of urgency in dealing with the pandemic by Boris Johnson – and Donald Trump – screams out. Countries in Asia such as Taiwan and South Korea have gained control over the virus by widespread testing, and social distancing. Countries in Europe are closing down restaurants and cinemas and all non-essential shops, as well as educational establishments. France, Italy and Spain have gone further by “locking down”. In Spain, the government has announced sweeping measures allowing it to take over private healthcare providers and requisition materials such as face-masks and Covid-19 tests.

In Britain, Johnson’s refusal to follow World Health Organisation guidelines [1] and instead adopting a strategy of allowing the virus to spread to build “herd immunity” is alarming [2]. Many are calling on the government to publish the science which it is using to make its decisions so that scientists can verify the evidence and test the assumptions. Strong measures of “social distancing” including by stopping mass gatherings are necessary, which the government has failed to adopt. The locking down and social distancing has been carried out independently by sporting and cultural organisations. It may be that by the end of the week, Johnson will have been forced yet again to catch up with what is necessary, and ban mass gatherings. But more measures are necessary. The NHS needs to be rebuilt to treat the enormous numbers of people likely to become sick, private health care requisitioned, and big pharma brought into public ownership. Mass testing for the virus, as called for by the WHO, is essential to find out how and where the virus is spreading, and contain it.

Jeremy Corbyn has issued a series of demands in a letter to the Prime Minister about the Covid-19 pandemic [3], including the introduction of rent deferrals and an increase in statutory sick pay. However, Labour should also be vigorously challenging the core of the government’s strategy of “herd immunisation” and lack of mass testing of all individuals with symptoms of the virus.

The government’s response to this health crisis is political. It wants to allow the economy to function as much as possible by not locking down so as to avoid a massive recession that would hit profits, let alone “getting Brexit done”. Johnson is slowly realising that the “herd immunisation” could lead to many more deaths than tackling the virus with the measures advised by the WHO. But at his press conference on Monday, he was still stepping back from adopting and implementing vigorously such measures and instead leaving it up to individuals and organisations to implement them.

The scale of the health crisis is such that nothing less than decisive state action, internationally coordinated, is necessary. But yet again we see the system putting profits before people. Labour and the left should not be afraid of accusations of “playing politics”. We should condemn the government’s inadequate plans to tackle the virus, and back wholeheartedly organisations that are taking the right steps independently and support community organisations and individuals that are taking matters in their own hands to develop local networks of support and solidarity. Already hundreds of mutual aid groups have been established around the country [4]. These are providing vital support to people in self-isolation, re-establishing collective organisation and could develop into a powerful movement to challenge the government.



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UNISON: Coronavirus: your rights at work


NATIONAL EDUCATION UNION: advice for schools, colleges and other education workplaces:
and read its letter to the Prime Minister asking “Why aren’t schools closing if mass gatherings are to be suspended?”


TUC brochure with guidance for unions and reps.


COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups