Covid: social battles still needed

Submitted by AWL on 20 April, 2021 - 5:12 Author: Martin Thomas
People on night bus, with masks

The world’s measured Covid death rate has gone through a new surge since mid-March. It may be levelling out now, but is still higher than at any time except a peak around late January. Covid is not fading yet.

The latest big spike is in India, from early March, where rates have risen from a low in early March to become even higher than India’s previous worst time, in mid-September 2020.

Some scientists had thought that some of India’s big cities, at least, had so many people with some immunity from previous infection that non-immunity would be scarce enough to make chains of infection peter out.

Evidently not. Or maybe (we don’t know yet), a new virus variant, B.1.617, is evading immunity got from older variants. That variant has already arrived in Britain.

So far, world-wide, only 11.8 vaccinations have been given per 100 people. The big majority of those jabs are in richer countries. Although India has one of the world’s biggest vaccine-making industries, it has only 9 jabs per 100 in its own population.

Solidarity calls for governments to requisition the vaccine patents, and the know-how and facilities to expand vaccine production at maximum speed. Best to requisition the whole of Big Pharma, which plans to make billions in profits from the vaccines after being subsidised by government to develop them.

Countries with big reserves of vaccines, like Britain, should donate more to help poorer countries.

The news on vaccine efficiency is largely good. But vaccination alone will not stop Covid. Chile has done more jabs per population than Britain, and yet is still in a new Covid spike, with a harsh new lockdown (since 25 March, round Santiago) to combat it. One reason may be the P.1 virus variant coming in to Chile from Brazil. Also, we don’t know how long immunity from vaccination will last.

Step-by-step caution in lockdown-easing; continued quarantine at borders; full isolation pay for all; and workers’ control on virus precautions in workplaces, are all still needed.

Covid deaths from care homes in England are down to an average of 6 a day in April, from 21 in March, 116 in February, and 190 in January. But the care homes need to be future-proofed: taken into the public sector, with the staff on NHS-level pay and conditions.

NHS logistics and supply must be taken into the public sector, too, under workers’ scrutiny.

With lockdown-easing, some café and pub owners are now saying they’re short of staff. Jobs may revive, but only precariously. Meanwhile, jobs are being cut in public services, as local government finance is squeezed.

The labour movement must campaign for re-expanded public services, a four-day standard work-week to spread the jobs, an end to zero-hours, and job security for all with an increased minimum wage.

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