If you listened only to the world’s political and business leaders, you could be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic is all but over. Or, in the most repeated words of the last twelve months, that we’re “learning to live with it”.
Yet in the last 28 days, a further 288,000 people are dead with COVID-19, according to the official global tally collated by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, one of the world’s foremost research centres.
The Economist magazine is also keeping a running estimate of “excess deaths”, which is a gauge of how many people are dying because of the pandemic in general—including, for example, people with non-COVID-related illnesses who would otherwise have been expected to live if it weren’t for overwhelmed health systems preventing them from getting treatment.
By its estimate, somewhere close to 1 million people died in the last month because of COVID-19. The final week of January was the second highest death surge since the pandemic was declared.
Despite these astonishing and horrific figures, the lion’s share of media attention continues to be about public health measures being just too inconvenient and onerous for business owners to bear. The people who really seem to matter aren’t the ones enduring incredibly painful, suffocating deaths, but tourism operators, airline executives, shopping centre operators and so on.
In Australia, there have been more than 1,700 COVID deaths in the last month. Yet state and federal governments are doing away with even the most basic of public health measures, such as mask-wearing indoors. If terrorists killed just 1 percent of the number that COVID claimed in February, the whole country would be on a war footing. Politicians would be screaming “never again!” and throwing billions into the intelligence agencies and the military. Can you imagine any of them saying, “Well, we just have to live with it”?
But with COVID, we are reminded again and again that the deaths primarily are among the elderly and others with “pre-existing conditions”. So we needn’t worry too much—just get out there and spend, spend, spend. What better indication of the priorities of capitalist society, in which the cries of billionaires to let the virus rip are heeded while the elderly, the disabled and the sick are just so much collateral damage in the pursuit of profits.
Osama bin Laden could never have hatched and executed such a plot to kill so many innocent people for such nefarious ends. Such is the cunning of the billionaire class and its servants in parliament and in the media.
It is true, thankfully, that the Omicron wave is subsiding. But the capitalists and the politicians want us all to forget what’s just happened. We’ve had a series of infection “waves” that, despite mass vaccination programs reaching nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, have gotten worse in many places, the United States being an obvious example.
And there’s been a series of virus mutations—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron being the most notable. No-one can say that the next mutation won’t be deadlier and more transmissible. Yet nothing is being done to prepare for the worst. Every move is to tear down public health barriers and enable business to make profits like there’s no tomorrow.
It is truly a sick system.
The issue of Catalonian independence has returned to the forefront of Spanish politics in recent weeks. At least 170,000 people protested in Madrid on 18 November against an amnesty deal for 400 people who were arrested for their involvement in a 2017 independence referendum. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) signed the deal with two Catalonian political parties and the Basque Nationalist Party in return for support to form government.
Waste companies in Ipswich have been poisoning residents for decades, toxifying the air and making life unbearable. For people living in the suburbs surrounding the Swanbank Industrial Area in Ipswich’s south, it can be a hazard even to step outside.
On 6 October the South Korean labour movement lost Bang Yeong-hwan—a comrade, leader and, for many, a friend.
High school students in Melbourne taught the government and right-wing media a lesson when they walked out of class in their thousands on 23 November in support of Palestine. From Werribee to Greenvale, students came from all over the city to show their horror at Israel’s war on the people of Gaza, half of whom are children, and their disgust at the Australian government’s backing of the genocide.
Middle Eastern supporters of Palestine have long bemoaned the failure of Arab leaders to take a strong stance against the Israeli occupation. It’s easy to see why.
For the past month, textile workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry have been fighting for an increase in the monthly minimum wage from 8,300 taka ($115) to 23,000 taka ($318).