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Covid is still out of control globally — time to waive vaccine patents

WHY are we not surprised that the Prime Minister has won the adoration of the Night Time Industries Association?

We don’t mean to suggest that Boris Johnson is a creature of the night. Only that the trade association which represents nightclubs, drinking establishments and other places of nocturnal refreshment has welcomed the premier’s decision not to impose any new restrictions on social mixing over the festive period and the New Year.

In the spirit of seasonal charity let us assume the unfortunately named Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, is unfamiliar with the Marxist aphorism that social being determines consciousness.

It would be a big ask to expect a man whose life work is devoted to maximising the opportunities for us to reduce our conscious understanding of the material world to be guided by a close textual analysis of Karl Marx’s 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

Or even to think that the people he hopes to entice into the establishments his association represents might have a different set of priorities.

But whether conscious or not, Mr Kill, like all of us, is more or less in the grip of a distinct ideology. His association, on present evidence, shares with the Prime Minister the view that no further restrictions are necessary in the face of the omicron variant, though figures from across the hospitality sector indicate collapsing revenues as people opt to stay away.

In the spirit of the merchant adventurers of earlier years, Kill enthusiastically proclaims that his industry “can now start to plan with some certainty over the next week and make up for lost time promoting one of the key nights of the year in the coming days.”

And in a flourish that would not surprise us if it issued from the mouth of the Prime Minister himself he added: “It is important that given this opportunity that we continue to recognise our responsibility to the public health strategy, and urge our customers to not only support us during this period but play their part in ensuring that this is the start of our recovery.”

Some public health strategy if it rests on drinking in crowded spaces.

Covid infections in France have broken the 100,000 a day barrier. On Friday last in the US the seven-day average of new daily cases surpassed 197,000 — a 65 per cent increase with more than 814,000 total Covid-19 deaths reported, the highest known number of any country.

The situation in Britain is bad enough but it is important to look at the global picture. Covid-19 is a global pandemic. It can only be tackled on a global level.

Highly developed countries are struggling with the present outbreak. Our NHS, according to expert advice, faces a winter meltdown due to years of Tory cuts leaving it with tens of thousands of vacancies – not a robust starting point for coping with thousands of Covid-related staff absences.

If people in the global South remain without vaccination the virus will inhabit a free fire zone and new variants will have a much greater opportunity to develop.

New variants will appear that respond differently to present vaccines and people who have acquired immunity through vaccinations to earlier infection will be more vulnerable.

The government has pledged $750m to the global Covax programme, but beyond delivering on this promise, Britain needs to abandon its opposition to vaccine patent waivers.

As a former colonial power and a country with enormous economic interests in other people’s countries, Britain has an obligation to render aid, provide advanced technology and help with the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

If this entails the rich and powerful thinking outside the box of their vested interests, so be it.

 

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