As Lockdown ends too early, Keep Our NHS Public supports the increasing calls for a Zero Covid Strategy and sumarises the positions from allied campaigns ahead of the Zero Covid Day of Action, Saturday 5 December 2020.
Dissatisfaction with the Government’s handling of the covid-19 pandemic is spreading faster than the virus. It’s policies, despite a hasty rebrand in the early weeks of their (already too late) response to the crisis, have continued to accept the ‘herd immunity’ strategy, and its acceptance that the virus has to be allowed to run its course.
This has to be viewed in the context of the Government’s continuing cronyism throughout the pandemic, awarding essential public health contracts to private firms such as SERCO who have categorically failed to deliver an effective test and trace system to keep us safe.
In contrast calls for a new ‘Zero Covid’ strategy are growing across civil society.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity have launched their Zero Covid Charter, Independent- SAGE is publicly backing it against the current three tier system and a now Zero Covid Day of Action is planned for tomorrow.
The People’s Assembly’s Zero Covid Charter is as follows:
- We face a single health and economic emergency. There is no health solution without an economic solution, nor any economic solution without a health solution. We do not accept that members of our family, our friends, or workmates must suffer death and illness to ‘protect the economy’, nor do we accept that we must lose our jobs or livelihoods to halt the pandemic.
- The resources that our society contains, human and material, should be there to halt the Covid pandemic and reset the economy.
- We reject solutions which pit one part of the country against another, or which leave frontline workers, the old, black and ethnic minorities, the disabled, school or college students exposed to the virus.
- We demand a track and trace system which really is world-class, provided by the NHS and not by any privatised firm or private contractor whatsoever. It must be fully integrated with local health and social care institutions.
- We demand that any vaccine is controlled and distributed by the NHS.
- We insist that in the second wave of Covid all frontline workers should have adequate PPE, provided by a publicly owned production facility, and full pay if off sick.
- We propose that no Covid positive patient is released into a care home and that the government brings forward an immediate plan to take social care into the NHS.
- The NHS must be staffed, resourced and managed so that it does not become a ‘Covid only service’ and its wider health care responsibilities are maintained.
- The full furlough scheme must be reinstated immediately, with adequate funding for devolved governments, extended to the self-employed, and small businesses must be given the support they need to retain employees.
- We recognise that over 60 percent of the population want a circuit breaker national lockdown which includes schools and colleges. We add our voice to theirs. As the crisis accelerates there is no such thing as a safe or “non-spreader” workplace or public transport to it. We call for the closure of all but essential workplaces with comprehensive state support for jobs and pay. Such a lockdown should carry clear exit criteria.
The current Chancellor’s bailout scheme was worth £350 billion. But the bailout of the banks reached a peak of £955 billion in 2009, nearly three times greater. Ten percent of the UK population own just over 50% of the nation’s wealth, and corporate wealth is at an all-time high. Britain’s wealth can be made available to the whole of society through a programme of emergency public ownership and wealth and corporation tax measures.
This is the only proven way to halt the second wave of infections that the government’s neglect and big business agenda has unleashed and to prepare a track and trace system which can prevent the need for endless lockdowns. We have no confidence that the current government will adopt these positions and therefore we call on workers and their organisations to make them happen by:
- A) Refusing to work on health and safety grounds in all but essential workplaces
- B) Organising activities in local communities to bring about a Britain wide lockdown, and make it work for the benefit of the people.
People’s Assembly Wales have also drawn up their own ‘Zero-Covid’ demands and a petition to the devolved Welsh Government.
Please see People’s Assembly Wales’ Zero Covid statement and list of demands is here.
Please sign People’s Assembly Wales’ petition to Welsh Government here.
The People’s Assembly have also produced a model motion to ask labour movement bodies to support the charter. You can read and download the motion here.
Likewise, Independent SAGE believes that the UK government must fundamentally change its approach.
They proposes a new overarching strategic objective of achieving a Zero COVID UK, i.e. the elimination of the virus from the UK.
They believe this should be informed by science and debated in public, and a proper coordinated strategy for its achievement developed with the public.
- The prospect of many thousands of further deaths from COVID-19 over the next nine months is unacceptable
- The UK government must propose and share with the public a strategic plan on how the pandemic is going to be managed in the next 12 months and of how the various measures against the pandemic fit together in an integrated plan.
- Independent SAGE believes that this strategy should have as its prime objective the achievement of a Zero COVID Britain and Ireland
- It will require the government in Whitehall to replace their failing NHS Test and Trace System with a fully-fledged and locally controlled system of Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support (FTTIS)
- The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland already have very few deaths and very small numbers of new positive cases. They have the virus under control and are well placed to achieve elimination of the virus
- England and Wales will need to make the necessary efforts as soon as possible to achieve the same position
- Achieving elimination would allow all social distancing measures to be lifted, schools to be fully open, the hospitality and entertainment industries to reopen fully, revitalisation of the economy and a sense of much-needed normality for the population.
The United Kingdom stands at a crucial point in its efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. What has been achieved so far is a moderate level of control of the pandemic in some parts of the UK but only limited control in most of England. The death toll has been one of the highest in the world and continues to grow. Independent SAGE believes it can change that trajectory. You can read the full report here.
A new campaign initiative has now been launched called the Zero Covid Campaign has been created to build a movement that can force UK governments to adopt the Independent SAGE proposals as public policy.
There’s a compelling case that we are living in an age of pandemics. It’s possible, although by no means certain, that successful vaccination programmes will have had a significant on UK population immunity in 12-18 months. Given the profit motivation of Big Pharma it’s likely to take much longer in the Global South. However, the likelihood of a mutation from Covid-19, or one or more completely new viruses over the next five years is high. So, a longer-term strategy for the campaign ought to be to ensure that we live safely in the face of recurrent pandemics. This is not a new idea – the British government had plans for such contingencies at the start of the millennium, then failed to maintain and update them and trashed the public health infrastructure that was needed for effective pandemic control.
One central demand of the initiative, which is fully supported by Keep Our NHS Public, is that the lessons of Covid lead to the re-establishment of a properly funded locally-based public health service and that there is no place for private companies in this service.
The Zero Covid Campaign has called a National Day of Action tomorrow on December 5th with socially distanced events happening up and down the country. You can see a full list of activity here.