Trade unions must call a general strike to stop Tories ending all Covid restrictions


YESTERDAY, Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the ending of all remaining Covid restrictions in England this week.

The Tories’ ‘Living with Covid’ plan means ending the legal requirement for people testing positive for Covid to self-isolate, while at the same time making the chance of anyone testing positive almost impossible by scaling back and eventually ending all free Covid tests.

PCR tests will be ended for most people, and there are plans for the free home-testing Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) to be scrapped.

In place of free LFT packs, the Tories are looking to introduce an online ordering system which would charge for these.

On Sunday, Johnson complained that the government had spent £2 billion on testing in January – wasted money as far as the Tories are concerned.

The other string to Johnson’s drive to be among the first capitalist countries to throw open the economy with total disregard for the lives of workers, was announced earlier this month when it was revealed the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey would be ‘scaled back’.

This is the surveillance system that monitors the development of future variants of Covid.

Helen Salisbury, a senior GP, wrote that ending this surveillance means ‘we’ll be flying blind as to the prevalence of infections, the emergence of mutations, and the ongoing risk.’

Ending the statutory duty to self-isolate following a test, which the Tories are intent on scrapping anyway, will hit the working class hard, with the TUC pointing out that people will be forced to make a ‘terrible choice’ between going into work with Covid or losing income by self-isolating at home.

Over two million workers in low-paid jobs do not qualify for sick pay.

Removing the legal necessity to isolate means that the existing entitlement of sick pay on the first day of illness will end, meaning workers will certainly face this terrible choice.

GMB union health and safety director, Dan Shears, said: ‘Removing Covid restrictions doesn’t mean that the virus has gone away … if the government wanted to create conditions to keep people with Covid at work, this is the way to do it. It will prolong the pandemic and create new cases of Long Covid.’

The Royal College of Nursing described it as a ‘big leap in the dark’ and called on the Tories to provide scientific evidence to back up this plan while Unison’s general secretary Christine McAnea condemned it as ‘a reckless and cynical gamble by the government’.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association council, said the decision was ‘not based on current evidence and is premature … it clearly hasn’t been guided by data or done in consultation with the healthcare profession.’

Although the Tories are boasting about getting Covid under control, the fact is that 47,685 have tested positive in the past 24 hours with 158 deaths a day recorded last Friday.

These figures are under the existing restrictions, ending them and treating Covid as a ‘harmless virus’ will inevitably drive them up and lead to rapid epidemic growth of the virus.

Estimates from a team at the University of Warwick found that the current measures had reduced virus transmission by 20-45% but that ending the restrictions will increase transmission by around 25-80%.

The Tories never had any intention of carrying out the measures required to eradicate Covid.

They refused to follow the example of China which organised a national lockdown with no loss of wages or jobs until Covid was defeated.

Now they are dumping even the most elementary precautions and preparing to let Covid rip through the population, putting the profits of the bosses before the health and lives of workers as they implement their ‘herd immunity’ survival of the fittest plan.

The trade union movement must take action to prevent workers’ lives being sacrificed for profit, and stop the ending of Covid restrictions by organising a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

Only under socialism can the full resources of a workers’ state be mobilised to carry out the necessary steps to defeat the virus.