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Labour's Abbott and Burgon join trade unionists' demands for a zero-Covid approach

by Matt Trinder
Industrial reporter

LABOUR MPs Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon joined trade unionists, academics and activists on Saturday to demand a “Covid-zero” approach to suppressing the pandemic.

They spoke at the virtual launch of the Zero Covid Campaign, a group advocating tougher policies aimed at eliminating, as opposed to managing, coronavirus.

Short, sharp lockdowns alongside efficient test, trace and isolate policies have seen many south-east Asian and Pacific Rim countries keep deaths and economic disruption to a minimum.

Former shadow home secretary Ms Abbott said: “We’re seeing 1,000 people die every day. We’ve almost become numb to those figures, but they represent lives snuffed out.

“They’re a standing indictment of this government’s failure to take measures they could see have worked elsewhere.”

Britain is quickly approaching 90,000 Covid deaths while, according to John Hopkins University, the combined death toll in “Covid-zero” countries — China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand — is just over 7,000.

“We’re not getting leadership from the government, and even the Labour frontbench could be a little bit clearer in terms of what it’s saying,” Ms Abbott added.

MP for Leeds East Mr Burgon said: “Preventing the unnecessary loss of life should always have been the priority, but even on an economic front, government policy has been a disaster.

“The ‘Covid-zero’ countries are back open, with proper new year celebrations, sports stadiums packed to the rafters, nightclubs open. That could have been us.”

The former shadow justice secretary called for test and trace to be taken out of private hands and given to local public health bodies, and for all non-essential workplaces to be shut with proper financial support for individuals and businesses.

“It’s going to be tough to get this Tory government to change track, but we can help save lives and livelihoods in spite of this government’s disastrous approach,” he urged.

Professor Susan Michie of the independent Sage group of advisory scientists agreed, slamming the government for following a “blame-and-punish approach” to Covid policy instead of an “engage-and-support” one.

She said: “People have been really responsible, polls show they want tighter lockdowns. [We have to] force this government to come up with a coherent and effective strategy.”

Further information on the Zero Covid campaign can be found at zerocovid.uk.

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