Crowds of several hundred torched cars, set off fireworks, and threw rocks during protests against Covid curbs on 19 November in Rotterdam. Police opened live fire, injuring three.
The Netherlands, with a running Covid case count which has multiplied by 11 since early October, and death count multiplied by seven, has closed shops and cafés after 8pm. In Austria, thousands marched on 20 November against the government’s plan to make vaccines compulsory for all from February. Austria has a new lockdown (shops closed, etc.) from 23 Nov.
There have been similar protests in countries with milder curbs: mostly, as far as we know, dominated by the far right. (Guadeloupe, where a general strike started on 15 November and unions are demanding wage and job improvements as well as rejection of Covid-pass rules, seen as a metropolitan imposition, looks like an exception). In Australia, the left-wing paper Red Flag reports “one of the most sustained and militant series of street marches of the far right in decades”.
Yet covid-distancing and mask measures, though clumsy, are still the onlyquick-fix measures for curbing Covid spikes. The labour movement should stand against the far-right outcries.
Solidarity makes no claim to public-health expertise on designing Covid curbs and boosting vax rates. We defend civil liberties. There is sense in trying mild measures first and in good time: mask mandate, vax-or-test entry requirements, more work-from-home.
Our focus remains on getting vaccination spread worldwide and on the social measures which can make Covid curbs effective and minimise the toll over the longer term: full isolation pay for all; workers’ control of workplace safety; requisitioning resources and boosting pay for the NHS; bringing social care into the public sector with staff on NHS-level pay and conditions; housing improvements to ease overcrowding and allow effective quarantining; social equality generally.
The Covid spike in Israel from late July to mid-September showed that the Delta variant can spread fast even in high-vax populations. Vaccination is effective against severe illness and death, but not 100%; and only semi-effective against mild infection. A big Covid surge coming through widespread mild infection among the vaccinated can bring a heavy death toll among an unvaccinated minority, and a few of the vaccinated, too.
In Israel, booster jabs (from early August) tamed the spike, but only after about six weeks.
With the Delta variant, the reproduction rate R without curbs or vaccinations or prior infections may be above 6. Vaccination, immunity from previous infection, and Covid-curbs voluntary caution reduce R. In Western Europe they kept counts low even after Delta became established there (early August: in the UK it was late June). Now, as winter approaches, recent R-estimates range from around 1.5 in the sharpest-spiking countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic) to below 1 in the UK (as yet).
With R=1 case-counts are (roughly) level. With R=1.1, they may double over a month. But with R=1.5, they may double in a week,or multiply by 16 over a month. After a while, the spread of infection brings a spread of immunity and a decline in infections. That has happened with Delta in India and Romania and Bulgaria, with relatively low vax rates. But in the meantime many died. Thus the case for Covid-curbs now.
In Africa (less subject to winter seasonal effects) Covid rates are for now going down. But the rates were low in Europe in the summer. Africa needs vaccines before its next Covid surge, and is currently getting only 0.1 jabs per 100 people per day (the world, 0.4/ 100/ day). Requisition Big Pharma for speedy worldwide production and distribution of vaccines!