The G7 meeting on 11-13 June will probably come up with some promise to speed vaccinations worldwide. It will surely fall short of the comprehensive public requisitioning of Big Pharma, and emergency world jab plan with priority to old or frail people and to health and care workers, that we need.
Pfizer expects $26 billion in revenues from its Covid vaccine this year. For Big Pharma bosses, holding on to their patents and profits comes before saving lives.
The quick spread of the Delta virus-variant in Britain, and the Covid spike in Taiwan, which thanks to its strict island-border quarantine, had had only 12 Covid deaths up to 14 May 2021, show us that the pandemic will not fade until it fades worldwide. World Covid death rates have dipped down again since the curve turned in India, but are still about 50% higher than they were at the first peak in April 2020.
An optimistic calculation by International Monetary Fund people reckons another year at quickest to get the necessary vaccination done. It may be possible to keep new “surges” in that year at low levels, but only with effort.
In Britain, identified Covid infections are up 61% week-on-week on the latest figures as Solidarity goes to press. They have been rising since early May.
Numbers in hospital with Covid have started to rise again too — though much less steeply, thanks to vaccinations. Even death rates are edging up again. Dropping Covid rules on 21 June would be foolish. But there is more to it.
To keep those rules to the minimum, to make them effective against the virus, and to limit their social costs, the labour movement must fight for:
• Full isolation pay for all
• Ample re-funding of the NHS, integration of private healthcare facilities into a single publicly-owned service, a 15% pay rise for NHS workers
• Taking social care into the public sector and giving its staff NHS-level pay and conditions
• Publicly-provided quarantine accommodation at borders and for people otherwise “self-isolating” in crowded housing
• Workers’ control of workplace safety, with special attention to ventilation and increased risk from more transmissible variants.