‘Living with COVID’ – Make the capitalists pay for this crisis!
Tory ministers have announced that all COVID restrictions will soon be lifted, with the public urged to ‘learn to live with the virus’. But it is the working class that will suffer the consequences. We say: fight to put health before profit!
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement last week, the current “Plan B” COVID restrictions are set to end tomorrow. Additionally, the mandatory self-isolation period for those infected will expire on March 24.
Although the number of cases remains high (with almost 90,000 daily positive test results at the time of writing), the Prime Minister took this reckless decision in order to appease Tory backbenchers and save his own skin.
The message is loud and clear. The ruling class is now telling us that we must ‘learning to live with COVID-19’ – this deadly disease that has killed more than 175,000 people in Britain, and which has already left an estimated 1-2 million people suffering from the effects of ‘long COVID’.
Tory backbenchers want to end all COVID restrictions in a bid to get UK businesses back on their feet. Their priority is to get the workers back into the workplace, in order to maintain the profits of the capitalists.
Removing sick pay and legal protections for COVID-infected workers, in this regard, helps lower costs and increase profits.
Johnson cynically gave in to these demands in order to ease the pressure on him, with a number of Tory MPs publicly calling for his resignation following recent #Partygate revelations.
But it is the workers who will pay the price for this opportunism: forced by insensitive bosses to overcome any disease; or unable to afford to be absent in case of illness, in the case of the most precarious workers.
The result will be permanently inflated case numbers as the virus is left to “let go” in workplaces and communities. This, in turn, could see new – more deadly – mutations emerge. And that will mean more people with long COVIDs.
All of this will be exacerbated by any decision to charge for lateral flow testing, as Tory ministers have hinted, it could happen in the near future. This would arguably reduce the level of self-testing in the population, and therefore increase the rate of contagion (while increasing profits for the private companies responsible for producing the test kits, of course).
The social consequences of removing all restrictions will therefore be to exacerbate both the public health crisis and the economic dislocation caused by the virus, and by the government’s botched response to the pandemic, further increasing pressures on the NHS and the likelihood of labor shortages.
This is the “new normal” of chaos and crisis that conservatives and the ruling class expect us to “learn to live with”. And it’s ordinary people who will have to foot the bill
Long COVID is set as suffering from symptoms for 12 weeks or more after being infected. These symptoms include breathing problems, fatigue, and even memory loss.
Last year, experts estimated that about 10-20% of COVID cases that did not require hospital treatment would have long-term sequelae. For those who have been hospitalized, however, that figure jumps to 90%.
Essential workers who have worked throughout the pandemic are therefore more at risk of suffering from long COVID, as they are more likely to have been exposed to the virus and required hospitalization.
The true extent of long COVID is hard to know, however, as cases have been massively under-reported. By June 2021, GPs had recorded 23,270 people in England with long COVID, while other major studies have estimated that the the true number (at the time) was closer to two million.
With such a surge in new cases, virus modelers say “a prolonged wave of long COVID is inevitable”. Claire Hastie from NHS England’s long-running COVID task force called it the “the greatest mass disabling event in history.”
In particular, medical professionals have highlighted the impact of the long COVID on young people. “[It is] difficult for a lot of young people who really didn’t expect it to be anything other than a flu-like viral illness,” says a doctor.
Capitalism to blame
This ‘prolonged wave’ will prolong the current crisis in the UK economy and the NHS.
The blame lies entirely with the capitalists and their political representatives. More than a decade of austerity and privatization has severely limited the ability of the NHS to deal with the pandemic and many other illnesses, with tireless healthcare staff working to exhaustion.
Indeed, even before the emergence of COVID-19, the NHS was routinely on the verge of collapse most winters. And these seasonal pressures on hospitals and healthcare workers are only getting worse.
Meanwhile, the recklessness and incompetence of Tories, combined with relentless pressure from the bosses, have allowed the virus to run wild through society over the past two years, leaving millions of ordinary people to suffer the consequences for their lives and livelihoods.
In response to this disaster, the TUC rightly called for the long COVID to be “recognized as a disability and COVID-19 as an occupational disease”. This would give workers access to legal protections and compensation.
But we must go further and fight to ensure that the victims of the coronavirus crisis of capitalism have access to the resources they need. People who need specialized treatment such as hyperbaric oxygen therapyfor example, should have free and immediate access – not just the rich.
However, this is only possible with a fully funded NHS – and democratically run by workers, for workers.
struggle for socialism
The entire labor movement must therefore fight to make the capitalists pay for these crises.
It means mobilizing campaigners to save the NHS with socialist policies: reverse all privatization and outsourcing; nationalize Big Pharma; and carry out a mass recruitment campaign led by unions of nurses and other key workers.
And that means fighting for demands like full sick pay for all workers, as well as worker control over health and safety measures in the workplace – all paid for by expropriating billionaires.
In the final analysis, the long COVID is a reflection of a sick system. In pursuit of their own narrow and short-term interests, the short-sighted ruling class has allowed the virus to spread and grow out of control across the world.
Only by removing power from the hands of the capitalists can we take control of our own destiny and put the lives of billions ahead of the profits of the few.