British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the lifting of legal Covid restrictions while he was self-isolating. The Health Secretary has coronavirus. The Chancellor is also isolating. Even though Covid cases peak, still the ‘Freedom Day’ raises quite a few questions!
- With more than 50,000 new cases a day and hospital admissions rising, it is clear that the government’s claim it would follow “data not dates” was a lie. Why relax restrictions at such a moment?
- The government is keen to end advice to work from home to protect the value of city center assets and raise economic activity. But in reality, only a few people have been able to work remotely during the pandemic, and if the millions who have had to travel to work each day throughout are not spending money on the high street, this tells us something about the chronic low pay and long hours endured by the country’s key workers.
- Mistrust of the state is not illogical: ministers’ mixed messaging and double standards since Covid struck have further shredded the credibility of a political class that was widely and correctly seen as dishonest and dishonorable before the pandemic.
- Meanwhile, Labour is right to oppose this at Westminster: we do not know enough about the long-term implications of long Covid to drop all restrictions while large numbers have not yet been jabbed.
- But with the opposition about to focus on another round of internal purges aimed at intimidating its own activists, it will hardly be leading the social and workplace resistance to Tory recklessness. The vast majority of the public will indeed show personal responsibility and do their best to protect others from the virus.
But the labour movement must also show collective responsibility to ensure workers are not put at risk while simply doing their jobs. Employers should be left with no doubt that a lax attitude to safety will result in industrial action, and pressure should be brought to bear on local and regional governments to maintain precautions while infection rates are so high.