Latest lockdown measures highlight UK and devolved governments’ failure

Peter Stoddart, YCL Student Officer

Across the UK yesterday, further lockdown measures were announced and plans for a break in the restrictions have been curtailed.

As Christmas week looms, the latest measures further highlight the Government’s total failure to contain the virus which has killed tens of thousands across the country since March. Despite repeated lockdowns the country remains in the grips of the deadly virus.

The various administrations announced these latest measures as it emerged a new strain of Covid-19 had developed in the last few weeks – seemingly more virulent, more infectious and affecting more people.

This represents an immense risk given the UK’s deployment of Coronavirus vaccinations in recent weeks. This discovery comes nearly an entire year after the first cases of the, then unknown, Covid-19 Virus, were first notified to the World Health Organisation late last December.

The new measures will affect tens of millions throughout the UK, although they vary between different regions and nations.

In England, in London, Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire, people are forbidden from mixing indoors with anyone not from their household. All non-essential retail and leisure facilities will close and a travel ban has been introduced. More than 60% of new infections in London and the South East, are seemingly a result of this newly identified strain which has spread significantly despite increased measures in the region.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced 350,000 people had been given the first dose of the vaccine in the first two weeks of the programme. Early reports suggest the vaccine is still effective against this new strain of Covid-19.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon

Similarly in Scotland, a travel ban between Scotland and England has been announced, and the entire Mainland, is set to enter Tier 4, the highest possible Tier. School holidays have also been extended by one week, with an additional week of blended learning planned. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, reported that the new strain of Covid-19 could be 70% more transmissible than previous strains. So far 17 cases of the new strain had been identified in Scotland.

In Wales, a nationwide lockdown has been announced and the rules are only to be relaxed on Christmas Day itself. Plans for a lockdown were initially scheduled for the 28th of December. First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced a return to the Stay-At-Home messaging from last night. He described the situation as “very serious” and announced over £100 million in funding, some of which will be available before Christmas.

The lockdown measures announced yesterday are necessary to contain the spread of the virus – there is no denying this. However, it is also clear that these measures are necessary, only because the Government and the devolved administrations have failed miserably, in their attempts to control the virus without implementing stricter lockdown measures. Most crucially, the Government have utterly failed to implement a proper Test and Trace system to restrict community transmission of the virus.

In Challenge, we have covered numerous stories of the Socialist bloc and their fight against the Coronavirus. Vietnam in particular has impressed across the world, and China’s efforts to enable vaccination programs in other countries, typically exploited by the West, highlights the importance of socialist internationalism. From the beginning of this crisis, we have recognised the need to prioritise public health over private wealth. Nearly 9 months on, we are back to square one.

As families up and down the country are forced to curtail or cancel their plans for Christmas and New Year, it is important that we understand why this has to happen. New strains of the Virus of course play a part, and cannot be ignored, but the real reason we are in this mess again, is due to the Government’s failure to protect us. The anger and frustration felt by many across the country as these measures were announced is warranted. We have to hold onto this anger, channelling it, to deliver social change, to ensure that those currently at the helm of the capitalist system are held accountable for the tens of thousands of deaths with which they are responsible.

Peter Stoddart