An all-party committee of MPs has called for border checks and quarantine requirements on Covid to be retained. They have a strong case.
Cautious step-by-step lockdown-easing, checking each step before moving to the next, can ease the bad social effects of lockdown. If the labour movement continues our efforts to win full isolation pay for all, to establish workers’ control of workplace safety, and to bring social care into the public sector with workers on NHS-level pay and conditions, we may be able to edge towards a set of restrictions which is socially sustainable fairly long-term and yet keeps infection levels declining.
But the Tories’ talk of a quick bonfire of restrictions is dangerous.
Worldwide, the latest surge in the Covid death rate, which started mid-March, is only tentatively easing off. The worldwide average death rate is still higher than it has ever been, except only a peak in late January.
Chile has a higher rate of vaccination than Britain, but is only now levelling off a new Covid surge which more than doubled infection rates between late February and mid-April. A chief factor there was probably the entry of P.1 and P.2 variants from Brazil, speeded by eased travel precautions.
Worldwide, vaccination rates are increasingly only slowly and without acceleration, by about 0.22 jabs per 100 people per day. At that rate, it will take over two years for the whole world to be vaccinated. Long before then, the already-vaccinated will probably need revaccination (we don’t know when), and yet new variants of the virus will have emerged.
Solidarity calls for the requisitioning of Big Pharma, especially of the vaccine patents and of the know-how and supply chains to build new vaccine production lines at emergency speed.
Even if we win that demand, and much more so if we don’t, the virus will swirl around the world for a long time yet.
In summer 2020, Covid infection and death rates in Britain and Europe were much lower than they are now. Governments declared Covid under control. They reopened tourist industries, bars, cafés, etc., with few restrictions. The result was the new surge from September, then accelerated by the B.1.1.7 variant. To repeat the policies of summer 2020 would be foolish. Keep up the fight for isolation pay and workplace safety!