Thanks, but no thanks: keep your arms off us!

30 September 2020

On the same day that the World Health Organisation announced that global deaths from Coronavirus had reached 1 million, the total number of cases in Britain passed the 7,000 mark - a doubling of cases over the past two weeks. In other words the virus is again spreading at a rapid rate in some parts of the country.

    Contributing to this increase is undoubtedly the opening of universities in the last 2 weeks. The figures confirm this: infections in schools and universities account for 44% of new cases.

    In fact it is reported (at the time of writing) that 52 universities have now had outbreaks of the virus, and 16% of secondary schools have had to send pupils home.

    One has to wonder how come universities were allowed to go ahead and welcome new students, when two weeks ago - yes, at the very same time - the government’s medical and scientific officers were explaining why new restrictions had to be enforced to prevent a new spike of 50,000 cases a day!

    What is more, the outbreaks among first year university students, crowded together in halls of residence, was actually predicted by government epidemiologists, who “modelled” this beforehand. But the government told universities to go ahead, nevertheless.

Education as a profitable commodity

This opening up of universities has been justified endlessly by both media and politicians - who say that students’ “expectations” have to be met. Apparently they anticipate a “university experience”, meaning the chance of mingling during “freshers’ weeks” in order to socialise and get drunk together! And never mind about social distancing. So now there are outbreaks in at least a quarter of all universities, up and down the country.

    But of course the government and universities’ real consideration had little to do with meeting students’ expectations, let alone mitigating any risk to their health! No, it had everything to do with the sums of money involved in university education today: a minimum of £9,000 a year per student in fees, plus the rents paid for rooms in halls and what is spent during term-time on everything else... Yes, thanks to successive governments’ policies, tertiary education is now a highly profitable commodity...

    And so, having contributed so generously towards the second wave of Covid, thanks to the government’s initiative, many students are now confined to barracks in halls of residence, in quarantine, and are complaining that they are not getting their “money’s worth”.

    Sadly, the “university experience” and “value for money” apparently no longer include the acquisition of knowledge, exchange of ideas and creation of new ones - which, in the “old days” before the fees system, used to contribute to the growth of humanity’s collective intellectual capital!

Johnson is clear about what he wants

Johnson keeps repeating how he is “putting his arms around the economy” and “around the workforce”, sickening as this image might be, by offering all sorts of measures which he claims will protect the working class and protect jobs. But of course the jobs are being cut today by the same bosses who were “in his arms” yesterday. As for the workers, who were never in his arms, they will be left to rot.

    He says the economy must be “kept moving” while at the same time new restrictions are brought in to suppress the virus. Thus we get Johnson’s confusing array of different restrictions for different areas, which in the end are so complex he cannot remember them himself and which end up encouraging non-compliance! Not only that, but he is also having to face down various backbench rebellions over his “emergency powers”.

    This growing rejection of lock-down measures is justified by a number of “professors” linked to the right of the Tory party and to big business.

    They are proponents of “Covid herd immunity”, calling for the abandonment of lock-down measures and for the virus to be allowed to rip through the community, while the elderly and vulnerable are somehow, super-shielded... Which of course, would mean hermetically sealing them off from the rest of us... until there is a vaccine...

    That all said, however, one could well ask oneself whether Johnson’s current strategy is not a thinly veiled version “herd immunity”? After all, workers are told to go to work “if they can’t work from home”, public transport is running, mask-wearing is subject to self-exemption and education is open. Daily, in thousands of workplaces, and on millions of commutes, the “rule of 6” is broken!

    Of course, in the real world, there is no having one’s cake and eating it, as Johnson claims he is able to do. It’s simple. He has opted to protect the economy. And with the second wave on the rise, he expects the population, both old and young this time, to pay the price.