The UK has now officially passed the horrific milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths – one of the highest death rates of any country in the world, though in reality that number was passed a considerable time ago.
This huge loss of life is not solely the result of Government incompetence, which is as far as the so-called ‘mainstream’ media will go, if they address it at all. It is the direct result of the Tory Government refusing to try to eliminate the virus – as New Zealand and other nations have so successfully done – instead, trying to “live with the virus” and “balance” the loss of lives and the economy and failing disastrously on both. Unless the Government urgently corrects its approach then many tens of thousands more Covid deaths are inevitable.
This crisis has deepened pre-existing inequalities in our society with those in lower-paid work and unable to work from home, Black and Asian communities and those in poorer housing amongst the hardest hit.
The UK coronavirus death toll was absolutely avoidable. Had the government followed the ‘Zero Covid’ strategy adopted by numerous countries in East Asia and the Pacific then many thousands of lives would have been saved. In New Zealand, Vietnam and across all the countries following a Zero Covid plan, the death rate is hundreds of times lower than in the UK – New Zealand has seen only 25 deaths in the whole pandemic and is enjoying an almost entirely normal societal life and minimal economic impact, thanks to its government’s competence and diligence. Other societies are reopening safely and their economies are recovering.
Members of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs (SCG) called for a ‘Zero Covid’ strategy in a statement on 9 September. It is needed now more than ever. While the vaccines offer real hope, it will be many months until the whole country has been properly vaccinated and the government’s changes of strategy are threatening even that.
The SCG has today repeated its call in a statement just released:
We cannot continue with months more of this failing strategy. If the virus is once again allowed to spiral out of control, millions more will be infected, putting further strain on the NHS, and risking further dangerous mutations of the virus.
We believe that this Tory Government has shown itself to be completely unwilling to implement the policies needed to save lives and livelihoods. It will only change direction under huge pressure. The role of Labour in this crisis is not primarily to support the government – it is to support the lives and livelihoods of the population. The priority for the Labour Party must now be to step up the opposition to the government’s failed strategy and force it to change direction.
We believe that means stepping up the campaigning for a new public health strategy that will drive virus levels down and for the economic support that can help people get through this crisis.
We call for
▪️A proper lockdown that lasts as long as needed to drive the number of cases to the very low levels of last summer so that we can get the virus under control, begin to reopen society safely and finally break the cycle of lockdowns.
▪️An emergency package of financial support that ensures that every single person in our society has a minimum income that guarantees them a decent standard of living so that they can afford to “stay at home” and aren’t pushed into poverty or greater debt as many have been during this crisis.
▪️Statutory Sick Pay to be increased to Real Living Wage levels and available to all workers to ensure everyone can afford to self-isolate.
▪️A program of emergency measures to help people self-isolate, for example, making available free hotel spaces for those living in cramped accommodation
▪️A comprehensive testing and supported hotel quarantine system for all arrivals to the UK, in line with WHO recommendations
▪️The lockdown period to be used to fix “Test and Trace” so that when society reopens cases can be targeted and isolated. That means ending the role of the profiteers such as Serco and investing in the NHS so it can deliver this key service.
▪️Schools to reopen only once it is safe to do. The immediate priority must be urgent government action so that all pupils have guaranteed access to a laptop and internet access within days. The Government must be investing now in the measures advocated by the education unions to make schools safe for whenever they reopen
▪️Trade unions to be centrally involved in ensuring that all workplaces are safe for workers to return to once the virus is under control.
How many more people will die before the Tories listen to workers and those who represent them? Will it ever happen?
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