Why we need a zero Covid-19 strategy – Diane Abbott Exclusive, #COVID19UK


” The idea that people’s health & lives could be put at risk in effort to get back to economic normality was always as misconceived as it was grotesque.”

Diane Abbott MP

It is now clear that new cases of the deadly coronavirus are rising once more in this country, just as they are in many other countries.  The government policy of partial lockdown, stop-go on easing and responding belatedly to localised outbreaks while forcing workplaces and schools to reopen is not working.  What is required is a zero Covid strategy, to effectively eliminate the virus.

Cases are no longer gently rising.  In fact, they are accelerating sharply toward the peak level we experienced in late April.  This is shown in the chart below.

Rising Coronavirus cases:

The chart taken from the ‘Financial Times’ clearly shows that accelerating spread of the virus.  The low-point for the moving average of new daily cases was just over 500 on July 7th.  It took 5 weeks for the new cases to double from that level.  It has taken just 11 days for the latest doubling of new cases.

Hospital admissions for new coronavirus cases are also rising.  The latest new admissions data from Public Health England were over 170 daily, up from fewer than 50 in late August.  Unfortunately, rising hospital admissions means that there will almost inevitably be more deaths, despite the heroic efforts of our NHS workers.

In addition, the effects of the virus are severe and long-lasting for many who do survive infection.  We cannot possibly know now what the long-term consequences will be. We cannot treat it lightly. We know too who is most badly hit by the virus, Black and Asian people and the poorest communities.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it cannot go on like this.  The idea that people’s health and lives could be put at risk in effort to get back to economic normality was always as misconceived as it was grotesque.  Businesses and jobs in a host of sectors such as retail, hospitality, accommodation, travel, food, arts and leisure cannot possibly return to normal while a pandemic is raging.  People cannot be forced to go out when they are in fear of their lives.

Only by defeating the virus is it possible to return to anything like normality.  Here, we have to breach the government’s aversion to learning anything from overseas, unless it is the spurious case for ‘herd immunity’ that has led to disaster in Sweden.

But there is good news on this front. Other countries have effectively eliminated the virus.   If we take just 3 countries (others have done good work too), in China, New Zealand and Viet Nam they have effectively eliminated the virus.  They have a combined population of just under 1.5 billion people.  Yet their combined death total is just 4,800.  If instead, they hit a comparable total to this country (even based on the Department of Health data) they would be heading towards 1 million deaths.

Paradoxically there is good news too even based on our own experience.  The government was very late in introducing a lockdown, testing is shambolic and it has never had a working system of tracking, tracing and isolation.  Even so, as the chart above shows, once a lockdown was introduced there was a welcome response in terms of suppressing the virus.

Cases were rising exponentially by the time Boris Johnson belatedly introduced lockdown on March 23rd and new cases continued to rise for a month.  But it only took a further six weeks or so before the number of new cases had fallen by nearly 90 per cent.  We were on course to eliminate the virus in this country too, if the lockdown had been maintained for maybe another two or three weeks. 

That is why I am pleased that the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs has adopted a statement calling for a zero Covid strategy.  I am hopeful some MPs from other parties will support us, and reinforce the call of the Independent SAGE group which has called for a zero Covid approach. 

There are of course negative consequences from this policy.  But in reality the pain is much less than the mounting caseload and death toll without any economic gain.  Job losses are soaring and wages are being slashed under the current policy. 

This is the least costly way out of this crisis.  In fact, no-one has come up with any other way yet. We need to defeat this virus and we can.

  • Diane Abbott MP is speaking at the Fighting The Tories – Transforming our Economy event this Sunday September 21 at 6pm, alongside Richard Burgon MP, Laura Pidcock and others. Register here – retweet here to spread the word – invite and share on Facebook here.

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