A couple of days ago, the WHO called out China for their Zero Covid strategy that is causing such huge societal problems in Shanghai, and to some extent Beijing. But what is Zero Covid? The Zero Covid strategy is….. fighting the pandemic. That’s it. Remember at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK and around the world. We had full lockdowns, we had 30 minutes of outdoor exercise time per day, we wore masks everywhere, and it was wildly successful in reducing cases and deaths. Far more successful than anything we’ve done since the vaccines came along.
Zero Covid in Shanghai has not been as effective this time, but you have to imagine that frustration at being the only country still taking Covid seriously with these kinds of measures is playing a big role. Western governments have inflicted their stupidity on the Chinese people, and are trying to use the anger of the locked down citizens to pressure the Chinese government into dropping Zero Covid and letting the virus run free, with devastating consequences. And the western media are eating it up. Even the WHO have now been brainwashed into advocating for ending covid measures and putting endless economic growth above public health.
One of the big talking points in western news is that China isn’t vaccinated properly. Their own vaccine isn’t as effective as the western vaccines, and a lot of the population hasn’t been vaccinated at all. But, funnily enough, they tend not to mention that China has been more successful in suppressing the virus and protecting its citizens (and the economy) than the rest of the world has been with highly effective vaccines. Practically everywhere outside of China, countries have brought in vaccines and then given up on other measures, and it hasn’t worked. But rather than accepting their mistake, they’re hell bent on forcing China to go down the same path.
I really hope China continues to resist the pressure and stick with Zero Covid, because it’s clearly the best strategy for both public health and the economy (not that I care about protecting this economy). I think they will, but the western media will not give in either. In the west, we’re so stupid now that the only evidence that could maybe prove to people that Zero Covid works would be for them to drop it and then see the resulting massive wave of cases, long covid and deaths. It’s never enough to show what would or could happen based on what we know. People need to see the disaster before they believe it.
The only thing I would change would be to allow people who haven’t tested positive that crucial 30 minutes or so of outdoor exercise time per day no matter where they’re located. To not allow people to leave home at all is what’s really made this situation newsworthy, and given ammunition to the western governments who only care about the health of the destructive fossil fuelled economy.
Last year I wrote that Covid won’t end unless we act on the climate and end capitalism. That prediction has proven to be pretty accurate unfortunately. The problem we’ve seen more and more is that people get tired of the restrictions and measures. Maybe most people will take the vaccines, but many wont. You could get around that if people were all willing to keep wearing FFP2 masks, distancing, working remotely and so on. But in almost every society, we see that people eventually get frustrated and give up fighting the virus. And governments inevitably decide that economic growth is more important than lives and long covid misery. And this whole process is expedited when the restrictions are half-hearted and ineffective, which you see more in countries with the furthest right wing leaders.
Take Australia or Japan for example. They did such a good job for so long in keeping cases and deaths low, but eventually many of the good people who always followed the rules to look after everyone else as well as themselves got fed up and gave up. And the cases skyrocketed. Of course it’s going to happen when normality as we’ve known it is the target, and you slip back after making slow progress for months. Why would you keep going when the illusion of normality is within touching distance? Unless you obsessively follow the latest terrifying science as a tiny minority of people like me do, you wouldn’t.
When the virus of stupidity has taken control of the world, the majority of people are incapable of thinking “let’s go for one last push with tough restrictions so we can come out the other side of this pandemic”. Instead they think “fuck these restrictions, I want to live!”; even though a rational person would realise that’s a counterproductive strategy after thinking about it for any significant length of time.
So with that said, clearly we have to stop making the end goal to return to how things were in 2019. We’re effectively trying to make a fad diet work rather than making a permanent lifestyle change that we can maintain. It’s not just about ending capitalism and economic growth, but that’s certainly a great starting point. If we change the way society works to a degrowth style model, we can eliminate covid without any restrictions as we know them. We wouldn’t be trying to return to a previous time. We’d be moving forward with a better system for humans and all other life on Earth.
That just leaves the problem of trying to convince people that a degrowth economy is in their best interests, and that’s where selfishness and individualism come into play. The rich will presumably not want to give up their luxuries; but really, that’s our only choice now. We’re not going to return to how things were pre-pandemic by vaccines and restrictions. It’s going to either be continued chaos, new variants, endless boosters, and prioritising growth over lives or long covid misery for millions; or a new system that benefits all of us and gives us some chance of a future on this planet as an added bonus.
Degrowth may not be enough to stop human extinction. Certainly Prof. Guy McPherson doesn’t think so (barring the rapid deployment of the MEER mirror system for reflecting heat away from the planet). But it’s the only economic system which at least gives us some chance. Continuing with our current insanity as usual model is not an option. But regardless of what happens with the climate, I’d like to experience a covid-free, fair, friendly and logical society before the apocalypse comes, if it comes.
Before I start, I want to be clear that I’ve had two doses of AstraZeneca, so I’m not anti-vax. But when you look at everything that’s happened over the last couple of years, you have to wonder how much the vaccine has helped rather than hindered. Especially now we know the booster won’t get us back to full immunity, and we have yet another variant on the way. Do we want to be perpetually stuck in a cycle of booster jabs in a slowly collapsing capitalist hellscape? Or do we want to actually end covid once and for all?
When we had the first lockdown, we had over a thousand deaths a day for quite a while, but when the lockdown really started taking effect, the numbers of cases crashed, as did the deaths a couple of weeks later. Probably the best case for the vaccine was in the winter of last year and early 2021. In the Autumn, we had a rise in cases which eventually lead to the circuit breaker, which was too late, and didn’t get the cases down that far. The government ended it despite that, and cases quickly rebounded to go far higher still into winter, where the vaccine started to play a role in bringing down cases and deaths. But by that point, the government, and the public at large were treating the vaccines as the magic bullet that would solve everything; and that has continued ever since. Culminating in the disastrous and reckless “Freedom Day” in June where the Tories ended all restrictions. If you look at the data now, you see that the UK has had continually high cases since when compared to other similar countries; but the UK has gotten away with its gross mismanagement because the cases and deaths have been consistently in the 40,000s and 200s respectively. It is obviously crazy that we’ve come to accept this as ok and “the vaccine doing its job”, but that’s where we are.
So, if we didn’t have the vaccines, how would this have all played out? Presumably we would have still had the Autumn surge, followed by a circuit breaker. People were growing wearing of the rules and looking after each other by that point (the clap for carers charade had ended). You’d have to assume that there would have been a stronger lockdown long before Christmas if there wasn’t a vaccine rollout. And I think it’s virtually certain that the cases and deaths would have been lower this year had the vaccine not existed. BoJo would never have been able to call Freedom Day and we would have never left the basic restrictions of mask wearing, social distancing and so on.
You only really have to look to a country like Japan for an example of how to do it mostly right. They did have small surges from time to time, but they were always able to bring it under control relatively quickly and it never got to the ludicrous levels seen in other countries. The only time it got quite scary was when cases hit about 30,000 a day during the Olympic period. At that point, the vaccine rollout wasn’t where it should have been, but they avoided cases getting up into the 40, 50, 60k range. And remember, this is a far more populous country than the UK, with massive cities where everyone is crammed in together on public transport. There was no reason it needed to get as bad as it did here.
The idea that 40,000 (now 50k) people can get the virus every day and 150-200 can die, and that be considered a success is truly obscene; and yes, perhaps very few of those people dying are vaccinated. But it’s the fact that we’ve allowed the virus to keep spreading in the community, especially among young people in particular for so long that is most obscene. You have to adapt to the situation you’re in, but they didn’t act to offset the 15% of adults who haven’t been vaccinated. The virus kept circulating widely, presumably causing an increase in asymptomatic transmission among vaccinated people. And we’re seeing the result of the continued spread around the world yet again now with the Omicron variant.
It’s clear that the only time most neoliberal governments act quickly is when there’s a threat to capitalism. In this case blocking travel from South Africa, not that it’s going to make any real difference now that it’s inevitably already spread all over the world. They couldn’t care less about public health, but they’re incredibly concerned about the health of capitalism. Nothing is ever said about how returning to global travel meant this was inevitable. This is really the crux of what this whole thing has been about. I’ve written before about how covid will never end until capitalism ends, and we just get further confirmation of that fact every day. And that brings us to the other problem with covid vaccines, which is that they prevent most people from realising that capitalism must end. The longer the period of time where people can stop and think, the less likely they are to want to return to how things were before. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it how most people wanted to jump back into “normality” considering how great it was to slow down and enjoy nature, clean air, peace and quiet for a while. But I do think that the capitalist establishment were lucky. If capitalism, covid, consumerism and the climate crisis had been able to marinate in people’s minds for much longer, we could quite easily have seen the massive change we need to see. The massive change that Graeme Maxton and his wife Bernice Maxton-Lee wrote about in their book “A Chicken Can’t Lay a Duck Egg”. It’s such a huge travesty that we’ve missed the most golden of golden opportunities for change, but I think it’s still possible. Every new variant, every new record breaking extreme weather event, every day people think more about unrelenting consumption that goes by, the better the chances that we’ll finally snap out of this.
So far, the government have been able to maintain the false notion that the vaccine alone will end the covid crisis without really being challenged in the mainstream. But even if everyone in the world was vaccinated, would it end? I can’t see how it would. What about adding universal masks and distancing? If we did that, and presumably it was the original intention of the epidemiologists, then yes, that seems plausible. But I don’t personally see that happening in reality unless capitalism ends and we pay people to stay at home. Mandating citizens to take the vaccine I don’t really agree with, but paying them to stay home and follow other rules I think is fine in the circumstances. It’s not as if people won’t be able to enjoy outdoor activities.
But one thing is for sure; whatever it is that we’re doing now clearly isn’t working. Booster shots for some, a dizzying mix of 1, 2 or no vaccine doses for others; plus a different set of restrictions and guidelines in every country when we live in a global world. It’s no wonder we’re still stuck in a loop after almost 2 years of this nonsense.
We have to all realise that we have to do something different. If you’re going to do boosters, combine them with lockdowns or at least heavy restrictions, so we can make this the last dose. But then, is it worth wasting a third dose when it doesn’t boost protection by that much? Maybe focus on vaccinating people for the first time, end capitalism and pay people to stay at home. The data shows it will be far more effective than any vaccine.
When you watch the mainstream media, you’ll notice this striking similarity between the climate crisis and the covid pandemic. The media can’t shake this firmly held belief that we have the solutions to both of these crises at our fingertips. The only issue is that unfortunately, neither crisis actually is actually being improved by these silver bullet fixes.
To be clear, we do have the ability to solve these crises, as I’ve talked about ad nauseam. But the solutions are not vaccines and green growth. Conveniently enough, the solution for both is to end capitalism. Sadly though, the media will never tell you that. Or at least they won’t while we still have a chance to save ourselves. Presumably they’ll change their tune once it becomes obvious to everyone that it’s too late to avoid every coastal city in the world becoming a treasure trove for scuba divers.
Boris Johnson at the moment is talking about how frustrated he is with world leaders not doing enough about climate change. So much so that he almost managed to convince me that he cares about the environment. Of course that’s ridiculous. If he was actually mad at other world leaders, he would be mad at himself for pretty much everything he’s ever said and done regarding the climate.
What he’s actually angry at is the possibility that he’s going to look bad when COP26 is a disaster and it reflects badly on him. He doesn’t care if any agreement is based on a fake solution of green growth with a ridiculous target of Net Zero in 29 years from now. All he cares about is that he can take the plaudits for “solving” climate change in Glasgow. Anything that happens after that (eg society collapsing, life on Earth ending) would just be a coincidence and nothing to do with him.
It would be really helpful if very soon we start to appreciate the real solutions, rather than glorifying fake ones.