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TORY calls for people to “learn to live with coronavirus” will cost lives and prolong the pandemic, speakers warned at the first Zero-Covid Coalition event of 2022.
Monday evening’s webinar, which the Morning Star helped organise, heard calls for action from MPs, trade unionists, campaigners and medical experts as the continuing spread of the omicron variant sees the number of infections soar.
Tory backbenchers are putting pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rule out further Covid-19 mitigation measures, despite deaths in Britain topping 150,000 — the highest toll in Europe.
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott warned that the country had a PM in “name only,” whose political weakness had led to “freedom for the virus.”
The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP dismissed Mr Johnson’s commitment to provide daily testing for just a fraction of the nation’s key workers as “just PR,” adding: “The real content of government policy is no more restrictions — survival of the fittest.
“But learning to live with the virus is actually learning to die with it and we have seen too much dying already.”
Former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon argued that if Britain had followed the example of China, which has sought to suppress community transmission, then fewer than 10,000 people would have died.
“That means we would have saved 140,000 lives,” he said. “That’s the human cost of this government’s reckless approach.
“That’s what ‘live with it’ really means.”
Professor Susan Michie of scientific advisory group Independent Sage stressed that zero-Covid proponents are not obsessed with lockdowns, which represent a failure to act early enough.
Ending mixed messages from ministers, taking proactive measures such as installing air filters in schools and waiving patents on vaccine production abroad, as well as providing proper sick pay, are what it really means to live with the virus, Prof Michie said.
She added: “What we need is to ensure safe environments for people. It should not be down to personal responsibility.”
We Own It’s Cat Hobbs blasted reports that free lateral flow tests could soon be withdrawn as another step towards the privatisation of health services, described by the GMB union’s Helen O’Connor as the “organised, legalised theft of our public assets.”
Morning Star editor Ben Chacko said that the health crisis had made the need for social and political transformation clear.
“To get beyond it, we need a radically new political approach that puts people before profit,” he insisted.
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