Thursday, 16 December 2021

Omicron and covid chaos - no end in sight

In many ways, Covid is the perfect storm. An infectious virus that is more deadly than the flu. Easily transmissible, it can kill and cause long-term health effects. Thankfully we have vaccines, but the vaccines don't provide full protection and don't prevent transmission either. In early 2020 Covid spread around the world. With one or two notable exceptions, governments reacted too slowly to the threat. At least 5 million people have died worldwide and the death toll in the USA alone recently passed 800,000

The fundamental problem is that capitalism can't cope with coronavirus. It's that simple. In an economy driven by profit and growth where little heed is paid to poverty, poor housing, and people's healthcare needs, where the economy comes first, it was always inevitable that countries would struggle to contain the virus successfully. Couple this with the fact that much of the world hasn't been vaccinated and the obscene fact that vaccine patents haven't been waivered while companies make massive profits and you have the failure of capitalism in a nutshell.

In the UK, the government predictably and foolishly celebrated 'freedom' day in July 2021 and here we are in another winter wave which threatens to overwhelm the NHS and damage businesses. Plan B, announced recently by Boris Johnson was too little, too late. With the omicron variant surging the government needs to take action, insisting rather than recommending that people work from home, revisiting the furlough scheme, and dealing with wholly inadequate statutory sick pay as a minimum. They also need to take much stonger action on schools where our children and teachers have been abandoned. 

There seems little chance of this happening. Rishi Sunak has already been moaning about the cost of the booster jabs programme and appears to have gone awol, sunning himself in California. When he gets back, don't expect him to do anything useful - expect more cuts and tax rises - exactly what we don't need.

The big issue here is that covid isn't going away any time soon. We will have to live with it for the rest of our lives and hope that it mutates into a less harmful form. But what we need to do is factor into our economy living with covid. This will require government support which is anathema to the Conservatives. It may require a basic income funded by covid QE, something which was used with the furlough scheme.

In the longer term we need a rethink about the way our economy works and who benefits from it. The climate crisis will force this on us anyway although governments and corporations are in denial about it. We need an economy that puts people before profit. One which is cooperative and collective, where people are decently housed, have stable remunerated work and access to healthcare. If we don't begin to move in that direction soon the alternative could be very bleak.

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