To curb the virus: social solidarity!

Submitted by AWL on 30 September, 2020 - 7:19 Author: Martin Thomas
Second wave graphic

Effective covid-distancing and virus-curbing requires social solidarity.

In a socialist world, pandemics like Covid-19 would be less likely, because there would be fewer destructive irruptions into environments of the sort that led to the virus leaping from another species to humans.

And when pandemics still happened, the social means to curb them would be much ampler.

Even in this capitalist world, countries with a greater element of social solidarity — of people looking out for each other, of care for the worst-off and vulnerable — have done better than those where the “all for me” spirit of the capitalist market rules more unrestrainedly.

There is more to it. Remote islands can shield themselves. Countries with high government surveillance of the population have an “advantage”; so have those with younger populations; and there are many other factors which science, as yet, can mostly only guess at.

But social measures create a basis:

• Good isolation pay

• Good and uncrowded housing, or at least publicly-provided quarantine quarters

• Public-health test-and-trace, rather than the Tories’ Serco mess

• Elderly care (in homes or domiciliary) as a public service, with a regular workforce on good union pay and conditions

• Built-in extra capacity in the healthcare and PPE-supply system

• Emergency income support for all. Care for the worst-off, like asylum-seeker detainees, the homeless, prisoners

• Workers’ monitoring of workplace safety

• Politics which allow an informed dialogue between scientists and the labour movement and the wider population, rather than the Tories’ floundering and bluster.

None of those fixes everything. Taken together, they make a big difference.

Scientists in Britain are now openly at odds with each other. Some call for more curbs (mostly, closing pubs and cafés and putting universities online; none call for closing schools). Some say we must recognise that the virus is with us indefinitely, even if a good vaccine comes soon, and focus on protecting the most vulnerable.

As the epidemiologist Adam Kucharski has commented, the “two different approaches [could] end up with similar outcomes” if followed through well.

Protecting the elderly and frail requires also slowing the virus among the younger and healthier, and that requires clear, stable, sustainable covid-distancing restrictions.

Some escalation of Britain’s second surge is inevitable; but to the level of Spain now (average of over 100 deaths a day) is not inevitable, and to the level of the UK in April (nearly 1000 deaths a day) even less so.

The world death rate is plateaued, and even in Europe some countries have low and stable, or still-decreasing, death rates (Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden).

The labour movement must force the Tories onto the back foot, and impose respect for social solidarity and for scientific debate in all its complexity.

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