Why respect the new virus rules?

Submitted by AWL on 19 January, 2021 - 6:38 Author: Angela Driver
"Keep on protecting each other" poster

Readers report arguments with workmates and neighbours over the virus restrictions. How should we respond?

“I’m young and fit, and my friends are all young and fit too. Why should we not socialise a little, when the chances of serious hurt from us getting the virus are so small?”

The virus has mutated, and is up to 70% more contagious than it was. Hundreds of people are dying of Covid every day in the UK.

There are chains of transmission. Most young people will not be seriously affected by Covid, but some will be. And even people who have the virus without symptoms can spread it. One young person who has the virus without realising it can give it to another young person while socialising.

Then the second person goes to a shop and passes on the virus to a shop worker who has a vulnerable family member. The shop worker’s family member may, in turn, get the virus... and die.

That is only one way that two young people socialising could lead to deaths which are not apparent to the young people involved, and of people whom they don’t even know.

“If I thought the government knew what it was doing, I might follow the rules. But it doesn’t, so I don’t”

The government has been unnecessarily inconsistent, unclear, and hesitant in how it has handled the pandemic, and the advice it has given.

Even the most conscientious scientists have changed their advice on the virus over the last year. It is a new disease. Evidence about it emerges piecemeal. If evidence and advice about it didn’t change over time, then it would surely be wrong!

This apparent inconsistency may also reduce people’s faith in advice given. There is a widespread distrust of “authority” and “experts”, exacerbated by social media and conspiracy theories.

But covid-distancing rules work for us only if we all follow them. Think of road markings, traffic lights, etc. We may not trust the governments and local authorities who design them. Still, everyone observing them saves lives; each individual following their own amateur traffic rules would cost lives.

If everyone observes an imperfect set of rules, it can work. If each individual follows their own rule, even if some individuals’ rules are better than the ones set by the government, then that won’t.

Science is fallible, but better science than individual guesswork. Scientists are now unequivocally advising strict covid-distancing and lockdown measures to reduce the number of covid-related deaths.

“I can’t afford to self-isolate. I might lose my job. Or I would lose my hours in my zero-hours job”

The government has failed to provide adequate financial support for people who should self-isolate due to Covid. Employers have pushed workers to return to work when they should be self-isolating.

Workers’ Liberty has been supporting the Safe and Equal campaign to win full isolation pay. Trade-union action has won it in some places. Employers can be pushed on such issues even when workers are not unionised. You don’t need to be unionised to use “Section 44”, refusal to work in an unsafe area.

If you should self-isolate, and can’t afford it, then get together with your workmates — whose health, and whose families’ health, will be threatened by you going to work — and press your boss. Contact a trade union, or a campaign like Safe and Equal. Ask friends for help.

The media have encouraged resentment between generations, and many older people were socially isolated even before lockdown. This is just another way our class is divided. But it is a civic duty to take measures to reduce the spread of what is for some a deadly disease. We must be guided by scientific advice.

“Looks to me like the vaccine has been rushed. I’d rather wait and see than get vaccinated any time soon”

Vaccines have been developed with impressive speed, thanks to an unprecedented international effort by scientists and clinicians, combined with new technology, and freely available funding.

Typically any new medication undergoes several phases of trials: 1, 2, 3. There is often a gap of a year between phases while additional funding is obtained. This time, funding has been prompt enough to avoid delay between phases.

The speed demonstrates that we can overcome many barriers to development of health-care technology when ordinary capitalist economic rules are suspended. Not that scientific rules have been suspended.

Past studies have found most adverse effect from vaccinations become apparent within two months. The vaccinations that have been approved for use in the UK have been tested over a greater time period than that.

Getting vaccinated probably makes you less likely to infect others, as well as less likely to suffer bad symptoms yourself. You owe it to your family, your housemates, your workmates, as well as to yourself, to take the vaccine if you have the chance.

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