The government can’t stop congratulating itself and the “public” for the “incredible vaccination effort”. Yes, as usual, good news is meant to bury the bad!
The facts are also buried. The last thing Johnson wants, is to remind everyone of how his leadership of the “fight against Covid” has produced the highest death rate among rich countries. He’d rather not admit that there are still more people in hospital than during the peak of the first Covid wave.
But what about the horrific death rates from Covid - 6 times higher - among those with a disability, including those with learning difficulties? This was fully documented after the first wave! So how can there be any excuse for not having placed these highly vulnerable people in a top priority group for vaccination? Yet for now, they remain in group 6 and are meant to wait at least another 4 weeks for their jabs!
As for the rate of deaths in care homes, despite vaccinations having started already on 8 December among their residents, an average of 1,000 deaths are being registered every week. A large number are apparently due to the more infectious “Kent” variant. And by the way, the government hasn’t let it be generally known that this variant causes more severe disease, either. Nor can anyone be sure that the “extraordinary” vaccination regime it has implemented will actually be anywhere near as effective as it boasts, especially against mutant viruses like this one, or worse.
Yes, there are still many question marks, even if Johnson appears daily dressed in a white coat at one or other vaccination site talking up his “programme for the end of all lockdowns”.
To make a pretence at seriousness, there are yet more unserious government measures, like the “Red list quarantine”: a money-maker for hotels, but it sure won’t stop virus variants fast-tracking in (and out) of the country! Or the huge fines and 10-year jail sentences threatened for those who flout the rules. But as ever, there are no fines at all for the non-essential bosses who prevent workers from self-isolating, because they expect them to live on thin air (or £95.85/week SSP)!
Indeed, workers cannot even take paid time off to get tests. And while the government may have offered on-site testing to companies, this is not happening for obvious reasons: “time being money” to the bosses, setting this up and implementing it, is just too much profit-consuming “bother”.
Yes, there’s one thing that no virus and no vaccine can “change” and that is the nature of capitalism. However, Covid has helped to show it up for what it really is - a rotten system that can only produce rotten politics and rotten politicians. Only the working class can change that.
The “R”number of strikes is going up!
Bosses are using the pretext of the pandemic to squeeze more profits out of fewer workers. Their latest tactic is to try to “fire and rehire” in order to force workers to accept new contracts under worse conditions. But this is resulting in a fightback - and it’s spreading!
After Xmas, 875 workers at British Airways Cargo, went on strike against “fire and rehire” - and were to strike again for a further 9 days in January, but their first strike was enough to force BA to back down.
This year, 7,000 British Gas workers have struck for 15 days so far, against similar “fire and rehire”, which would have cut pay by around £6,000 a year. Workers on the picket lines have been burning these abject “contracts”!
Then there’s the company which runs Heathrow Airport, HAL, which is trying to cut workers’ pay by 25% - also by imposing new contracts. So 4,000 firefighters, engineers, security guards, baggage handlers, central terminal operators, landside and air-side operators, are all out on strike this month.
After having worked through the entire pandemic, which so far, cost the lives of at least 44 bus drivers in London alone, bus workers in London and Manchester are now fighting attacks on their pay and conditions too. RATP in London wants to cut pay by £2,500/yr and Metroline wants to impose “remote sign-on” which means drivers start and end their shifts at a bus stop, rather than the depot. In Manchester, Go North West bus drivers are preparing an all-out continuous strike from 28 February, also against fire and rehire, and threats to cut 10% of jobs!
Railwayworkers, who’ve also worked through the pandemic, have been threatened with a 2-year pay-freeze - never mind that £10bn has been handed over to private train companies in compensation for “lost profits”!
Workers everywhere face similar attacks. In car plants, bosses are using the pandemic to increase their abuse of agency temps and by cutting jobs, they’re increasing the amount of work for all who remain.
It’s obviously a new offensive by the capitalists. But, as thousands of workers are already showing, fighting back can stop them in their tracks.