As China reports no new cases, Coronavirus Illustrates all the Flaws and Failures of Free Market Capitalism and our broken NHS

As China reports no new cases, Coronavirus Illustrates all the Flaws and Failures of Free Market Capitalism and our broken NHS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As China reports no new cases, Coronavirus Illustrates all the Flaws and Failures of Free Market Capitalism and our broken NHS

Too Little Too Late – The Delay and Failure of Boris Johnson to Deal with the Coronavirus and its Consequences Could Kill Thousands

It has just been announced that there are no new cases of COVID-19 in China. Whatever the failings and flaws of the Chinese political and economic system, China has illustrated that a determined campaign to eradicate this infectious disease is perfectly possible. We don’t have to wait 18 months for a vaccine.

What is holding us back is the political and economic system we live under. The  prioritisation of profit and the needs of capital over  human beings has resulted in a failure to close workplaces, universities, schools, pubs and recreational centres.

I have to confess that I have more than a personal interest in this! In addition to being over 60 I had a liver transplant 5 years ago and therefore take immune-suppressive medication. In the event of contracting COVID-19 it is likely that I will become one more statistic.

Only a week ago Boris Johnson announced the Government’s ‘strategy’ to deal with Coronavirus, if one can dignify it with that description. In essence it consisted of a series of platitudes such as stay at home. Given the 3 options outlined by researchers at Imperial College of suppression, mitigation or do nothing, Johnson chose the latter.

It is only now that schools are to be closed and still no news about pubs, swimming pools and gyms, cafés etc.

Although the mainstream media was uncritical of Johnson’s ‘strategy’ many people, especially those in the medical world, realised what he was up to.  Johnson’s main concern was about business profitability not people.

As Massachussett’s Institute of Technology Review explained

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his country would adopt a different coronavirus strategy from the ones its European neighbors have followed. Most governments have sought to suppress the spread of the virus by reducing mass gatherings, imposing quarantine restrictions, and encouraging social distancing. But Johnson said the country would forgo such measures

No doubt this was part of this poundshop nationalist’s Brexit agenda, showing that we have now regained control from Europe. The only problem is that, like Climate Change, Coronavirus is no respecter of borders and national boundaries. Coronavirus has no nationality, which is why Trump’s reference to a ‘China Virus’ is so absurd. Even if it did come from China and that is still not certain, it hasn’t stayed there. No amount of immigration barriers or Mexican walls is going to prevent it spreading.

The Tory strategy was indeed different from our European neighbours. It meant letting 60% of the population get ill and thus allow ‘herd immunity’ to set in.  There was just one problem with that. It was going to cause a massive number of deaths.

The World Health Organisation estimated that 3.4% of those who contract it will die. 60% of Britain’s population is about 36 million.  In other words we are talking about over a million people. Even if we assume that with the NHS the figures could be kept to 1% that would still be some 360,000 deaths. As Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health at UCL wrote:

The stated government policy is to allow 40 million people to become infected. This could mean 6 million hospital admissions, 2 million requiring special or intensive care, and 402,000 deaths if the chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty’s 1% estimate of mortality is correct.

statement from over 500 scientists in Britain caused Johnson to realise that proudly proclaiming that we are British and therefore different is not enough. Even if nationalism is irrational, science isn’t. We live in a globalised world and the vain boast of the idiot in the White House that border control has prevented Coronavirus in the USA is just one more of his empty boasts (having first denounced it as a hoax). They wrote to express their:

concern about the course of action announced by the Government on 12th March 2020 we are deeply preoccupied by the timeline of the proposed plan, which aims at delaying social distancing measures even further…. Under unconstrained growth, this outbreak will affect millions of people in the next few weeks. This will most probably put the NHS at serious risk of not being able to cope with the flow of patients needing intensive care… Going for “herd immunity” at this point does not seem a viable option, as this will put NHS at an even stronger level of stress, risking many more lives than necessary. By putting in place social distancing measures now, the growth can be slowed down dramatically, and thousands of lives can be spared. We consider the social distancing measures taken as of today as insufficient.

An open etter from Italy made the same point:

‘The beginning of the outbreak had the exact same number of infections in China, Italy, and other countries. The difference is that China strongly and quickly locked down Wuhan and all of the Hubei region 8 days before Italy [3].

The letter went on to say that just 8 days of delay would result in an ‘enormous increase in the number of total deaths in Italy with respect to China.’ Italy has now had more deaths than China. Whereas China has got the spread of Coronavirus under control, Johnson and the Tories have helped spread it. By delaying the closure of schools and other public institutions, the Tories embarked on a cull of the elderly and vulnerable.

The death rate varies by age. 7.5% of the over 70s who get the virus will die and this increases to 14% of the over 80s. Given that 67% of the over 70’s voted in the General Election for the Tories compared to just 14% for Labour, it’s a strange way for Johnson to express his gratitude for their stupidity.  But then Johnson and the Tories main concern have more pressing concerns – the interests of big business and capital.  Killing off the elderly and vulnerable will also have the ‘benefit’ of saving countless millions in care costs and social security.


Johnson, front row and Cameron next to him

Johnson, who wrote a ‘flawed and self-serving’ biography of Churchill, imagines that he is a second Winston rather than a vain and boastful Bullingdon boy born with a silver spoon in his gullet. He should take some lessons from his hero.

Until 1940 Churchill was a failed politician.  In 1931 he had resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over the Tories support for Dominion Status, i.e. self-government for India. In 1925 he had returned Britain to the Gold Standard thus ensuring deflation and economic crisis even before the 1929 Wall Street crash. What made Churchill’s reputation was the War and  his role as a national leader. Johnson’s first crisis has shown that he is an inept puffball, a buffoon without an ounce of originality but someone who understands where his class interests lie.


Boris Johnson is no Churchill

For the past 10 years, beginning with the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, the NHS has been starved of funds and facilities in order to achieve their aim, after the 2008-9 financial crash, of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. The result is that we are more unprepared for the virus than virtually all other western countries bar the USA. We have such a massive shortage of nurses because Theresa May decided that student nurses didn’t need bursaries. 

Whereas Germany has 29.2 critical care beds per 100,000 of the population, the UK has just 6.6 beds. We are 24th out of 31 European countries. No doubt this is something that Brexit supporters are especially proud of, though it remains to be seen if they will maintain their pride if they succumb to the infection.

This may also help explain why Britain has one of the highest mortality rates (4.4%) and Germany has the lowest (0.2%), although many of these figures are provisional.

Above all this infection is highly political. We can only deal with the outbreak together and in co-operation whereas the spirit of capitalism was seen at 6.00 a.m. in my local Asda when there was a rush to grasp the limited supplies of toilet paper (which had run out by 7.00 a.m.).

Capitalism is both amoral, as George Soros said and also inefficient since it has only one term of reference – profit. It is a system which ensures that a tiny elite accumulates more and more wealth as the rest of us get poorer. How can an economic and political system built on impoverishment be efficient, still less just!

Even worse capitalism distorts what should be produced, hence why such a vast proportion of GDP is used to produce weapons, which we are then told is essential to ‘peace keeping’. We now need ventilators in a hurry but if production had been geared to such essential equipment in the first place there wouldn’t be the present panic. And lacking any control over industry we cannot simply order firms to diversify production.

Of course when COVID-19 threatens business then demands are made for Corporate Welfare, the only kind of welfare the Tories like. Chancellor Riki Sunak has pledged £330 billions to help industry. Undoubtedly there need to be loans to small and struggling businesses but it would be an outrage if one penny of this went into the pockets of corporate fat cats like Richard Branson. If much of the airline industry collapses it’s a good thing. It will reduce the world’s carbon footprint enormously. There is no excuse in the days of Skype and Zoom for someone flying to a meeting in New York.

The formation of hundreds of mutual aid groups shows that there is an alternative to the dog-eat-dog ideology of free market capitalism. Self-isolation will be particularly devastating for the old and frail, many of whom will be unable to obtain help easily, go shopping etc.

We live in a fragile ecosphere and Coronavirus is one more example of the damage we are doing to the world. Once again we have an example of a pathogen jumping from animals to humans because of poor hygiene and food practices

What We Should Be Demanding

There is a Petition Calling for the Labour Party, which has so far been almost silent on the crisis, to adopt an emergency action plan. There is also a good statement by West Ham Labour Party.

It is crazy that sick pay is £98.25, the second lowest in Europe. It should be around £300 per week. There is a need for a moratorium on all evictions of tenants and mortgagees for failure to make payments. Landlordism has always been parasitical on the real economy. Empty buildings need to be requisitioned and open immediately for the homeless.  There should be a moratorium on utility bills for people self-isolated.

No one should ever be on the street, especially now. There is no better way to spread the infection than people having to live on the street. But this means challenging the idea that private property rights are more important than human need. Since there is £330 billions available it should go to the people who need it not for corporations  to pay it to their shareholders.

There needs to be an emergency injection of £50 billions into the NHS. If China could create emergency hospitals in one week in order to successfully contain COVID-19 why can British capitalism not emulate it?  Whatever the many faults of the Chinese system – a hybrid of centrally directed capitalism and collectivism – one thing is certain. They have shown that it is possible, by acting quickly, to contain the virus.

In contrast Boris Johnson has wasted weeks in dithering. In the United States health care is an integral part of the free market and it there that the chickens have come home to roost. It is the most expensive health system in the world. In 2014 it spent $2.8 trillion and wasted £750 billions in things like administration, competition, fraud, insurance profits and much more expensive drugs. 40 million Americans are uninsured and over 50 million under insured.

People can’t afford to seek help or not work in a society where there is no welfare state and thus no safety net. Which is why the infection is rapidly spreading in the USA. If the Democrats stood for a unified health system free at the point of delivery then they would have a guaranteed victory in the November elections. Instead, in Jo Biden, they are putting forward another corrupt corporation in human form.

If you can’t afford to be treated and can’t afford to be tested then it is impossible to measure the extent of the crisis.  Add to which without sick pay people who are sick will continue to go to work, thus spreading the virus.

The free market is completely incapable of dealing with this crisis.  In 1940 Churchill and the coalition government adopted measures that Johnson would denounce as ‘communist’ today. Nothing could be produced without the say so of the state. Exchange controls and rationing were taken for granted. The state took over distribution of resources. Imagine that instead of the unseemly rush at the supermarket at 6.00 a.m. that toilet paper, potatoes and Paracetemol (another shortage commodity) were rationed on the basis of need?

The NHS is so successful as a model precisely because it is an example of socialism. You contribute what you can afford from taxation and take what you need.  It is their ideological hostility to the NHS and what it stands for that has led to its stealth privatisation over the past decade.

What we need today is the requisitioning of all beds and facilities in the private sector, a sector that has been parasitic on the NHS for far too long.

As Jonathan Cook wrote:

there is nothing unique about the coronavirus crisis. It is simply a heightened version of the less visible crisis we are now permanently mired in. As Britain sinks under floods each winter, as Australia burns each summer, as the southern states of the US are wrecked by hurricanes and its great plains become dustbowls, as the climate emergency becomes ever more tangible, we will learn this truth slowly and painfully

We have the scandal that the crisis in Iran will be far worse because of sanctions. The pretext for this, that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon or that it sponsored terrorism, is shocking.  If nuclear weapons were the problem then Israel too should be under sanctions. If terrorism were the problem then not only Israel, but Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen and the Gulf Sheikdoms would be sanctioned, to say nothing of the United States itself. But of course they are the West’s allies and the West doesn’t do terrorism.

What this means concretely is that Iran’s people will die in their thousands to satisfy the appetite of Trump and Netanyahu. Apart from basic humanitarianism, this is utterly counter-productive.  People who travel to Iran and then get infected will simply pass on the infection.

As the World Health Organisation has made clear it is important to test, test, test.

As of Wednesday there were 2,626 cases and 104 deaths in Britain. These are likely to be gross underestimates. Given that only those already seriously ill are being tested we may already have over 100,000 cases of infection. Many deaths may be attributed to different causes as well.

It is clear that now infections have reached over 100 that the infection is spreading fast. There needs to be a massive testing programme put in place now coupled with quarantining of those infected. If you are not even testing people until they fall ill how can you possibly know the extent of the problem? Everyone should be tested.

The decision to close schools is welcome but far too late.  Likewise a decision should have been taken to close pubs, bars, clubs and other communal spaces. But it is not enough. As the WHO spokesman said:

The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission and to do that you must test and isolate . You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot fight this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.

Because of its almost instant reaction, China’s mortality rate from COVID-19 has been 0.4-0.7% – a fraction of what European countries are now experiencing and which Britain, thanks to the murderous incompetence of Boris Johnson’s regime is also experiencing. China has been using a drug developed in Cuba, Interferon Alpha-2B which inhibits lethal complications in those who become infected with the virus.  Although it is licensed in the UK the government has been silent about its use. Why?

This is really important since there is no guarantee that a vaccine will work. There is no vaccine for HIV or the common cold, both viral infections. It may well be that the same route as that of HIV, mitigation and alleviation, will be the best route. It is also somewhat ironic that despite its economic size Cuba, because it isn’t a free market economy, has a health service that is superior to the United States. For example infant mortality in Cuba is less (4.4%) than that of its big neighbour (5.8%). Hence why Cuba was willing to take in a British cruiser with nearly 700 passengers on board that the Barbados, the Bahamas and the United States rejected. See Tory inaction is leading Britain into unnecessary Coronavirus catastrophe

The failure to deal effectively with Coronavirus, which can be considered another other man-made natural disaster, is not because of the scientific problems but the systemic problems of a political and economic system that prioritises private profit and greed over human need. If disaster strikes in over populated Gaza, subject to Israel’s brutal siege for over a decade, with an almost collapsed health service then the responsibility for what happens will be that of the West which encouraged Israeli oppression by opposing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. 97% of Gaza’s water is polluted, its population ‘kept on a diet’ by the brutal Israeli occupation regime which calculates how many calories are allowed into the territory (much as the Nazis calculated the calorific intake of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Coronavirus Bill and the Attack on Civil Liberties

The government has just released proposed legislation. In the words of ITV’s political correspondent, Robert Peston:

There has never in my lifetime been a law that so encroached on our civil liberties and basic rights as the Coronavirus Bill, scheduled to become law by end of month. It is all aimed at keeping us safe. But the transfer of unchallengeable power to the state for two years is huge. It covers everything from burials, to holding those who threaten national security for longer, to closing borders, to detaining those with mental health issues, to empowering the police to quarantine those with the virus, and much more. This is… wartime stuff.

In particular the Bill:·       

  • Allows health professionals and the Police  to detain someone suspected of being affected·       
  • Allow just one doctor to section (detain) someone against their will under the Mental Health Act. This is a massive power for just one doctor who may for example have a personal grudge against that person.·     
  • Instead of being detained for a  maximum of 6 months before a review, that detention will now be indefinite.·     
  • The NHS will now no longer have to provide care and treatment plans for those leaving hospitals.·       Reductions in standard of social care for the elderly, disabled and others.·      
  • Deaths to Coronavirus will not be subject to being heard by an inquest jury.

   Allows health professionals and the Police  to detain someone suspected of being affected·        Allow just one doctor to section (detain) someone against their will under the Mental Health Act. This is a massive power for just one doctor who may for example have a personal grudge against that person.·       Instead of being detained for a  maximum of 6 months before a review, that detention will now be indefinite.·       The NHS will now no longer have to provide care and treatment plans for those leaving hospitals.·       Reductions in standard of social care for the elderly, disabled and others.·       Deaths to Coronavirus will not be subject to being heard by an inquest jury.

The law will last 2 years and be passed as secondary legislation, i.e. without any scrutiny. Even more worrying Labour, which is supposed to be the Opposition, has said it won’t oppose the Bill.

Emergencies such as Coronavirus are the ideal opportunity for the government to get away with a massive attack on civil liberties under the guise of dealing with the emergency. Reductions in the rights of mentally handicapped people have nothing whatever to do with fighting the virus. For more information see The Tories just revealed the most terrifying part of their coronavirus plan

Economic Impact

Coronavirus is going to have a massive economic impact. The leisure industry could be devastated.  Rail and bus will see far fewer travelers. Many workplaces will be shut down and consumption ie demand will also fall away. Coupled with Brexit Britain is certainly heading into a recession. The only question is whether it becomes a depression.

Reading up on the Virus

Here is a list of what to do compiled from various sites by Spotlight and here is a useful interview with a doctor.Tony Greenstein

 

 

 

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