The alternative to forever Covid is Zero Covid – Diane Abbott exclusive

“175,000 British citizens have died. These were overwhelmingly avoidable deaths… Had this government pursued the same policies as Australia, we would now have a Covid-19 death toll the British death toll would now be under 7,000. Following the policy of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand would have led to fewer than 700 deaths.”

By Diane Abbott MP.

The question of whether Boris Johnson will be ousted as Prime Minister is seemingly no longer a matter of if, but rather when. There may be many ‘work gatherings’ in celebration when that happens.

But we should not delude ourselves that this means any let-up in the enormous series of attacks that this government has launched, and which are primarily directed against lower-paid workers, disabled people and Black and Asian communities.

Instead, we need to be clear that whoever Johnson’s successor is from within the Tory Party it will be someone who has fully supported those attacks and would possibly go even further. 

In the unlikely event that Johnson does cling on it will only be by pandering to the worst elements of his own party. They may well thrive on red meat, but it will be a disaster for the overwhelming majority of the population.

Every single attack, including the massive loss of life, to the widespread prevalence of serious long-term illness, to the trampling over democratic rights and removal of government accountability, to the conscious increase in racism while denying it exists, to the attacks on women, to the decimation of public services especially the NHS, all of it is a joint enterprise by the entire Tory party.

There has not been a murmur of disapproval from any of the possible candidates to succeed the worst Prime Minister in living memory to any of these policies.

175,000 British citizens have died. These were overwhelmingly avoidable deaths. Other countries have much better outcomes from the same virus. Had this government pursued the same policies as Australia, we would now have a Covid-19 death toll the British death toll would now be under 7,000. Following the policy of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand would have led to fewer than 700 deaths.

Instead, in the infamous phrase attributed to Dominic Cummings, the government chose to ‘protect the economy and who cares if a few old people die?’ Whether the words were uttered, this has clearly been the theme of the government’s response throughout. We should be equally clear that it is those who are already socially deprived who have borne the brunt of this, those facing the worst forms of exploitation and oppression.

The connection to the rest of the government’s reactionary agenda is straight forward. In the upheaval and pandemonium caused by the government response to the pandemic, they have seen the opportunity to pursue long-held Tory objectives on rolling back the NHS, driving down wages, increasing job insecurity, creating a more authoritarian state and Enoch Powell-style deportation policies.

There has been a widespread failure to understand that the consequences of the pandemic as well as the government’s viciously reactionary agenda are both the products of conscious government policy.  They are linked because the former facilitates the latter.

You cannot tackle the effects of climate change by watering your garden. You cannot halt the ravages of war by calling for more bandages. Yet this has largely been the response to the Tory attacks on our people.

As a result, the vacuum where opposition should have been is now filled by the reactionary cranks of the ERG/CRG, who now regret all previous measures taken to suppress the virus. Presumably, our death toll was not world-beating enough.

We cannot live with the virus because it is lethal. As one of the excellent speakers at a ZeroCovid Coalition meeting put it, “we have a zero fires policy. This does not mean there are never any fires. It does mean we always try to put them out. We don’t live with fires.”

The government approach is ‘living with the virus’ meaning that we will live with forever Covid. Ministers declaring a deadly, easily transmissible and highly mutable virus as endemic doesn’t make it so.

Instead, other countries have shown suppressing the virus works. The alternative to forever Covid remains zero Covid.


  • Diane Abbot is the MP for Hackney North and former Shadow Home Secretary. You can follow her on Facebook and twitter.

Featured image: Diane Abbott speaking at the Annual Labour Conference.

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