The UK government has officially asked people to get negative COVID-19 tests before entering the country from overseas, a move which has made many ask – why on earth wasn’t this done sooner?
This has certainly been the view of Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), who noted the huge delay in introducing “this blindingly obvious measure” was “absolutely disgraceful.” Indeed, scientific research has found that COVID-19 entered the UK more than 1,000 times during the first wave, highlighting the need for a policy like this far sooner than it has come about.
And even now the situation is still dire. Over a year after the outbreak in Wuhan, there is still no testing upon arrival, quarantine arrangements for new arrivals are poor and there is no support system to allow people from overseas to isolate, even if the government is asking them to do so.
This is just the beginning of the chaos we find ourselves in this weekend. Yesterday (8 January 2021) alone, at least 1,325 people in Britain died from COVID-19.
One in thirty Londoners are estimated to have coronavirus, and eight in ten positive tests in the area have been identified as the new, more infectious variant of COVID-19. This has led the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to declare a major incident and that the spread of COVID-19 in London is out of control.
Across the country, cases are sky-rocketing. The virus has already killed more than 76,000 people in the country, the worst death toll in Europe and the fifth worst in the world, and 68,053 confirmed cases were announced by the government yesterday to add to the total sum of three million since the outbreak. This is the highest single day figure so far, and the eleventh consecutive day that more than 50,000 new cases had been reported.
As Challenge has asserted across the duration of this pandemic, this crisis in public health is a direct result of the contradictions of capitalism, and the disastrous policies of the Tories – this disaster was not inevitable.
Some countries have been able to return to normal, allowing ordinary economic and social life to resume, because they acted to suppress the virus from the start. Details of the “zero-Covid” strategies employed by countries which have successfully driven the virus down to very low levels such as China, New Zealand and Vietnam differ, but all involved making elimination the goal and using lockdowns to build mass testing systems backed with effective contact-tracing and support for those required to isolate. In Britain ministers have never made elimination the goal, pursuing a hotch-potch of half-measures to bring catastrophic infection levels down and then lifting them haphazardly without adequate systems in place to stop a rebound.
For example, in countries such as China, Vietnam and New Zealand, a degree of normality has been restored, as these countries have been able to drive the virus down to very low levels through “zero-COVID” strategies. But in Britain, we have never made elimination of the virus the goal, because of the perceived short-term economic damage this could cause.
As previously noted in Challenge, “that they do greater damage to the economy in the long-term by making lockdowns inevitable is irrelevant —market forces exist in the here and now, long-term thinking is impossible. The capitalist response to the crisis, therefore, is inevitably self-destructive. It reproduces the conditions which prolong its suffering.”
This false choice between economic growth and saving lives has meant that Britain has done neither, and that Britain has the highest death toll AND the biggest economic contraction in Europe. If it is a choice between the two, it appears that Britain’s ruling class and their Tory government have chosen neither.