The campaign to beat the pandemic

Activists march across Westminster bridge. They carry a sign that says COVID ACTION NOW

Comment A movement must be built

14 November 2022 / Alex Heffron

Alex Heffron writes on his substack about the need to organise for Covid safety.

A chart showing that as of mid-October 2022 three in five Britons would back the re-introduction of mask wearing on public transport, as well as strong support for self-iso if positive, mandatory testing, and even wearing masks in indoor public spaces.

Despite all governments of the UK and the British media forcing upon us the conceit that Covid is safe to live with there is still surprisingly high support for masking, according to a recent YouGov poll. 61% back masks on public transport and 49% support masking in public indoor spaces.

Those numbers surprised me. Someone might ask, “why is no-one wearing a mask, then?” But I think this shows the power of peer pressure, the media and institutions to shape what is permissible. Further, 75% support self-isolation for testing positive. If we are to believe this poll then we have to conclude there is still support for Covid safety measures to be in place. You can add to this the survey by Trades Union Congress earlier in the year that showed only 29% of workers (and 14% of disabled workers) feel safe going to work, since remaining protections were scrapped.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise, after all there are more than 500,000 clinically extremely vulnerable people still shielding, 2,100,000 with Long Covid, and more than 211,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the UK. Add in all the loved ones of these people, and there you alone you have several million people who are daily affected by the misery of this virus. And then how many of us really want to keep getting sick with this virus?

There are now several variants in circulation with no effective vaccination programme and zero plan as to how we’re supposed to live safely with Covid. There has been ample time to retrofit public buildings with air filtration. A recent study shows that it can reduce airborne Covid by 90%. They are not expensive or difficult to fit.

All year ambulances have been backed up at A&E departments meaning ambulance waiting times are dangerously high. It’s becoming accepted that children will be regularly exposed to this virus, despite a recent study showing prevalence of Long Covid in kids is comparable to adult population. It’s unconscionable and a total abdication of collective responsibility to children to allow this continued normalisation of the virus. In addition, another recent study has shown again that risk increases with each reinfection.

The question becomes, then, how to build a movement large enough to force the eradication of Covid? This is not a virus we can individually avoid. It’s now a long term project that will require considerable organisation. There are aspects of it out there but our numbers are relatively few and I haven’t yet seen a proposed strategy or plan that meets the scale of the challenge. The rise of trade union militancy provides an opportunity to fight for the introduction of Covid safety measures. But we mustn’t kid ourselves either, it’s not a demand that is yet acknowledged. In particular, I think the fact nurses are going on strike soon—the largest strike action in their history, and soon likely midwives, junior doctors, and ambulance drivers—provides an important opportunity.

Those of us fighting for Covid safety have to seize the opportunity and get Covid demands on the table. How else do we leverage power? Politicians are unmoved by our demands. If the workers who have been worst impacted—the most abandoned by their employers—cannot fight for Covid safety measures then who can? It’s not the only tactic we have, but it’s potentially the most powerful, and now is the time to work on it. Now is not the time for apathy, now is the time for action.

Reposted with permission from Alex Heffron. He is a father and farmer, living with Long Covid since March 2020. Exploring what “living with the virus” really means and how to build a post-Covid world of solidarity and care. Check out his substack at

Image sourced from the ONS, licensed under the Open Government License v2.

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