The campaign to beat the pandemic

Comment Save lives now, then we can all live well!

20 January 2022 / Joan Twelves

Much in Labour’s 10-point plan for living with Covid is welcome, but it ignores the immediate crisis – we have to stop people dying from the virus before we can live with it.

More than 350 deaths per day, over 100,000 daily positive cases and nearly 20,000 Covid hospital patients is neither acceptable nor normal.

The Tories’ narrative that the pandemic is over, their removal of even the weak Plan B protections (mask-wearing, working from home and the limited use of Covid passes), and – even more worryingly – their plans to shortly end self-isolation for those testing positive for Covid, have to be challenged by Labour.

Johnson and Javid’s rejection of infection control measures in order to assuage their right wing backbenchers, is reckless to the extreme, and is based on eugenicist theories rather than any regard for science or the public’s health and wellbeing. The brilliant NHS vaccination programme has reduced our risk of death dramatically. But there are no guarantees that Omicron’s inevitable successor variants or mutations will not be more vaccine resistant and deadly.

Not only do we need to keep promoting vaccination – including by calling for employers to give staff paid time-off to get jabbed and recover – we need the protective and mitigation measures of a Vaccines Plus strategy.

These include continuing personal protection measures such as:

  • social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public places, including schools, colleges and workplaces;
  • setting indoor air quality standards, with CO2 monitors and HEPA filters being installed in all classrooms and indoor public venues;
  • all NHS, social care, teachers and those deemed at high risk being issued with free FFP2/3 masks;
  • financial support for all those required to self-isolate or shield, and for businesses and self-employed who are taking a hit from the economic damage caused by the continuing unpredictable high levels of employee and customer absences.

Labour rightly says the test and trace system needs fixing. The first step there must be to dismantle the current discredited outsourced system and hand it (along with the necessary funding) over to the public health professionals in local authorities and the NHS who should always have been in charge of it.

It should go without saying that both LFD and PCR tests must remain free and readily available to all UK residents.

The right to work from home or flexibly has been a long-term demand by many, especially parents and carers, and the experience of the past two years means that now is the time for it to be legislatively enforced.

Adding these immediate essential measures to Labour’s longer-term plans and opposing the UK government’s lethal approach means we can stamp down hard on the virus and make it possible for us all to live our lives without the constant threat of chronic disease or death hanging over us.

But unless and until this deadly virus is suppressed to the lowest levels possible both in the UK and globally, we won’t be able to say we are living with it.

This was originally published on Joan’s blog.

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