Analysis

Tories’ obsession with hospitality as driver of infections while ignoring schools is condemning UK to huge second wave

The recent decisions of the authorities to limit the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic are doomed to fail – and the Tories’ wilful blindness is condemning the UK to many thousands more infections and thousands of deaths before Christmas.

North-South ‘divide’

The English government appears to think that the new wave of infections is a “north of England” problem – or at least to want to portray it as one. Any claim to genuinely believe locking down the north will stop the second wave have been exposed by leaks revealing their decisions to applying tighter restrictions to northern areas even though some of the northern towns have lower infection rates than southern areas left to run more or less normally.

But even if the intent were genuine, it would fail. Many people work outside the areas in which they live, while university students have travelled – again because of Tory delays – all over the country, some of them taking infection with them. Data will soon show the second wave breaking across the whole of England.

Looking in the wrong direction

The government’s focus has been excessively, in fact almost exclusively, on hospitality as the key driver of the second wave – but while hospitality plays a role, the data shows that it is not even in the top four. Social care, work, family and education are the four biggest drivers. Restricting social contacts in hospitality is useless when the virus doesn’t stop to measure whether you’re working or having fun before infecting you.

The Tories’ approach to the pandemic has seemed to be full of magical thinking: stop anyone having fun and the virus will somehow decide not to spread, so they can keep the country at work and in school. It’s patent nonsense.

The key cause of the second wave is personal contact. Keeping schools open means some 500 million journeys a month and many billions of contacts – including among children who cannot possibly maintain physical distancing effectively. The government’s own scientists concluded that opening schools would push the R rate above one and fuel a second wave.

A false measure

The government is measuring coronavirus risk only by the consequences of exposure for the person infected. So because children and young people rarely die from COVID-19, the Tories (and Labour’s non-oppositional front bench) treat schools as ‘safe’. But schools and universities don’t exist in isolation. Pupils and students carry viral load back to their families and into society and avoidable deaths and damaging infections result; or they infect school staff who then suffer severe COVID or pass it to their families. Education staff are essential front-line workers but are being treated as cannon fodder.

Damaging the economy, too

A key part of the Tories’ goals is to keep businesses open in the belief this keeps the economy going. But in the long run the resulting delays to the measures needed only lengthen the economic problems and ultimately damage the economy more. Eat Out in August => curfews in September. These ‘boomerangs’ cause more damage.

‘Herd immunity’

So-called herd immunity has never stopped being the core of the Tories’ approach to the pandemic. Only the language changed after the public outcry against Johnson’s ‘take it on the chin’ idiocy.

But herd immunity without a vaccine is impossible without a catastrophic loss of human life. Attempting it in winter will cause a syndemic & overwhelm our NHS impacting all other admissions & A&E. We do not have the capacity. Besides, it would require 8 full blown waves & still fail.

Already a horrific ‘second wave’ death toll

Coronavirus deaths in the UK have numbered more than a thousand since the beginning of September. The public has become desensitised to the death toll because it hasn’t reached the horrific levels seen in April. But if the second wave is not stopped, deaths might occur at a lower rate but will still run into many thousands – just a over longer period.

‘Bubbles’ burst

By failing to focus on cutting the number of social contacts the government is on course to kill thousands. Shrinking ‘bubbles’ in leisure and family life but keeping schools, universities and workplaces open is senseless and doomed to fail.

The virus doesn’t care whether you’re working, learning or having fun.

*This article is based on discussion of a thread by @ToryFibs

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20 comments

  1. The government knows exactly what it is doing. It hopes, by associating sensible quarantine measures with closing pubs and banning socialising, to provoke a revolt which will enable it to drop all attempts to curb the spread of the virus. Thus returning us to Square One- herd immunity.
    The only interest the government has in dealing with the virus lies in the possibilities of pouring tax money into the pockets of the spivs who have settled on the NHS like flies on a rotting corpse. That and teaching the public that saving the lives of old poor people is too expensive to attempt. And they justify this to themselves by reflecting that killing off the weak is good practice according to the cod eugenics that rattles around in their empty-greedy-heads.

    1. Yes. It’s difficult to conclude otherwise when a tailspin deterioration in a very dangerous situation is met with the response that we might do something about it next week . . . or maybe the week after?

    2. I disagree in only one respect bevin – the way I see it is that their major support base is older, house-owning, well-pensioned and relatively privileged – and therefore more fearful – voters who I think might identify with other old people and see relaxation of lockdown as pandering to pub-goers, students and yobs.

  2. The remarkable thing is that despite wide agreement among the scientific expert that the rapid deterioration warrants an urgent ‘circuit breaker,’ the dithering useless Johnson is pondering maybe doing something some time next week! It’s remarkable. This is a man who seems, unlike most people (and indeed rats in scientific experiments) (comparison entirely intentional) to have no facility for learning from previous mistakes.

    1. No such thing as ‘mistakes’ for followers of false prophets.
      Capitalism demands unquestioning belief and suppression of unbelievers as much as any religion.
      Legalising the principle of ‘death to apostates’ so that their secret legions can kill dissidents like us with impunity is every bit as evil as the blind faith of the Inquisition, Al-Qaeda, IS or any other cult.

  3. LOCKDOWN! WHAT LOCKDOWN? Planes are still flying, spreading the pandemic internationally & public transport still operates. The self-employed working class (more white privilege) must always work & cannot self isolate. Working from home is a luxury for the bourgeoisie. Schools & Universities are still open.The farce is being ‘dragged-out’ as the ‘Barrington Theory’ is promoted by BBC & Channel 4 ”the old & vulnerable must be locked away & out of sight (sorry, protected); Covid 19 their problem.

    1. Probably 20% of the population is “vulnerable”. Not sure how they would propose to protect everyone. Would there be financial support for the vulnerable of working age? Not likely with this government – those shielding have been told to go back to work. What about ethnic minorities, who have been disproportionally affected by Covid already? And older people living with younger family? Presumably expendable!

      1. A surprisingly useful, detailed, article on Sky News Online this morning , detailing the hugely higher mortality rate from covid19 compared to flu , and pneumonia, over the same time period of a year as this years new covid19 epidemic , going back to 1959. The facts simply disprove the much repeated Trumpian denier nonsense that ‘Covid 19 is no more of a problem than ‘normal’ annual flu and pneumonia outbreaks’. https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-killed-three-times-as-many-people-as-flu-and-pneumonia-combined-figures-show-12098893

        Like other posters, I totally agree with Bevin’s earlier, succinct, post. I think we, as socialists, will have to face the reality that for a UK and global capitalist class the likely global death toll from covid19 in the coming years is still likely to be dwarfed by the unnecessary death tolls from the likes of WW1 and WW2 – both of which were , at core, cataclysmic events produced by the internal dysfunctionality of capitalism as a system. And that global capitalism emerged STRONGER and more efficient as a system afterwards. A fact the current capitalist globalist neoliberal ideologues and their billionaire oligarch masters are very aware of. The various global capitalist ruling classes would not blink at even 50 million dead from an epidemic, if that is what is required to keep businesses running , and the production of surplus value happening. If the achievement of some , even partial’ form of ‘herd immunity’ costs millions of lives , particularly of the non-surplus value-producing old and sick, then that’s what our psychopathic capitalist rulers will indeed pursue. Pity that , across most states, even supposedly ‘democratic’ ones like the UK, the supposed ‘political opposition’ to such a diabolic strategy is tied up tightly by a corrupt political elite totally loyal to capitalism , and sold body and soul to their capitalist puppetmasters – like Starmer’s now firmly once again Tory-lite, NuLabour Party.

  4. Doctors are not all humanitarians these days, many are bent on becoming millionaires by 30 so they can hold their heads up with their old uni mates working in the city.
    I’m saying many medicos are as Tory as the worst of them.
    Hardly any of them are Schweitzeresque heroes these days.
    When medical opinion is influenced by profit – see expert witnesses for hire – you can’t trust it. Doctors get rich, make investments and oppose losses like any other investor.
    They don’t care about the cost to others, just as long as they can’t be sued for malpractice.

    Allowing young people at low risk to live their lives normally and obliging older people like me to do the social distancing is fine with me – I take responsibility for myself anyway – just as long as we have the right to duff up any of them who deliberately invade our personal space or otherwise try to bully us. Some of us hit back.

    One little question – I’d like to see some detail on the “comprehensive and detailed list of measures, [ including approaches to multi-generational households, ] can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.”
    because I doubt they exist.

    People need to be aware that this course of action would set the generations against each other even further.
    Tories already conned the young that the reason they can’t afford houses is that the baby boomers took all the good stuff and left nothing for the generations coming after them.

    “It’s not us greedy capitalists keeping you poor for profit, it’s your greedy grannies who had the sheer reckless arrogance to do what Thatcher told them to do.”

    The boomers did what was expected of them in the belief that generational improvements – that had been the norm since the Great Depression – would continue.
    They didn’t know Thatcher and Blair would turn sensible economics on its head.

  5. When medical opinion is influenced by profit – see expert witnesses for hire – you can’t trust it. Doctors get rich, make investments and oppose losses like any other investor.
    They don’t care about the cost to others, just as long as they can’t be sued for malpractice.

    Indeed…There was a time when most doctors smoked camels IIRC.

    1. I should have written “demand compensation for losses” – compensation paid by the rest of us to maintain the rich in splendour even when they fuck up.
      Capitalism’s faux ‘justification’ is that profit follows success and loss follows failure, and thus good prevails over evil like god intended.
      Compensation of investors proves that to be a pack of lies.

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