mass murder in nazi britain

Our lockdown was supposed to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly, from COVID-19, but we’re achieving precisely the opposite
Rob Lyons,, Apr 7 2020

Rob Lyons is a UK journalist specialising in science, environmental and health issues. He is the author of ‘Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder.’

Putting old people under virtual house arrest at home or in their care homes, denying them proper medical care, destroying the value of their pensions. How are these devastating measures supposed to be helping them? COVID-19 is a disease that is disproportionately dangerous to older people and those with serious underlying health conditions. The most frightening figures from the overall death toll attributable to the disease arise where health services are overwhelmed and cannot cope with large numbers of elderly people who have contracted it. In short, the lockdowns that we are seeing around the world should be largely justified by saving the lives of older people. The trouble is that stories are also emerging which suggest that older people are not being protected anywhere near as well as we might expect. This first became apparent in Italy. Even as early as mid-March, there were reports that Piedmont had put in place guidelines to refuse intensive care for the over-80s if resources became too stretched. It is true that old and frail people may simply not be well enough to benefit from being put on a ventilator. But having a policy simply based on age suggests the lives of older people are regarded as less important.

In the Netherlands last week, there was controversy over older people receiving phone calls from doctors asking questions about intensive care treatment, such as being put on ventilation, should they become infected. In the UK, there seems to be a proliferation in the use of ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, now formally called ‘respect forms.’ DNRs are valuable where a patient, their family and doctors agree that attempts to resuscitate could do more harm than good when the patient suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest. But the use of DNRs has become promiscuous in recent weeks. A doctor’s surgery in south Wales sent out letters to some patients, asking them to complete a DNR so they wouldn’t be taken to hospital if they got COVID-19. These went not just to older people but those with disabilities and long-term illnesses. A Labour MP, Peter Kyle, has warned that care homes in his south-coast constituency of Hove were applying DNRs “en masse,” and there have been reports on social media of GPs signing DNRs on behalf of patients, apparently against their wishes. More commonly, there is pressure on patients to get DNRs in place now, leaving family members and other observers worried that undue pressure has been placed on older people to agree to them.

Indeed, OAPs may not even be reaching hospital at all when they become seriously unwell. Barbara Keeley, another Labour MP, has pointed to deaths in care homes where elderly patients weren’t taken to hospital. There have been five deaths at one care home in Salford, and 13 residents at a Glasgow care home died in one week following a suspected outbreak of coronavirus which also affected two staff. Some of Britain’s biggest care providers have complained that they have been denied coronavirus tests and that GPs were no longer visiting care homes, saying: “You just feel completely abandoned.” Moreover, conditions in care homes are alarming. Always chronically underfunded, they are having to take on many of the functions of hospitals without anything like the trained staff, personal protective equipment and other resources required. The dedication and courage of low-paid care-home workers in these circumstances gets little acknowledgement. The virus can spread easily within care homes. Last month, the Spanish military was called in to help at care homes, and found elderly patients abandoned and even dead in their beds. With so many staff off sick or self-isolating, agency staff who work in several different homes are a potential means for spreading disease. All the while, the homes are in lockdown, so that families cannot see their loved ones.

For those care-home residents with dementia, being cut off from their families, the only people they may still recognize, will be a terrifying experience. Even for those elderly people able to live in their own homes, the effect of the lockdown could be debilitating. No-one over 70 years is supposed to leave their home or have visitors. Firstly, the isolation could have a very negative impact on their mental health. Secondly, sheer lack of physical movement could lead to circulatory problems or a loss of physical capability that is never recovered. Finally, there is the claim that anyone who criticizes the lockdown is choosing to put the economy ahead of the lives of older people. But the dichotomy is false. Many older people rely on savings and private pensions. That kind of income is threatened by a severe economic downturn. Pension pots are serviced by company dividends, which are being increasingly canceled as profits dry up. Interest rates have been slashed, so savings will earn zero interest. If penny-pinching around social care was bad before this crisis, won’t it be worse when governments are racking up huge debts to pay for emergency economic measures?

Ultimately, there is something more intangible, too: freedom. Who decided on behalf of older people that they should be placed under informal, if not explicit, house arrest? Did anyone ask what level of risk they were prepared to accept? As they come towards the end of their lives, might the dangers of COVID19 seem less than the risk of losing some precious months of living life to the full? When we are told that society must be locked down for weeks or months, we need to balance the harms of such measures against the harms of a more liberal approach. With all the focus on cases and death tolls, we are missing the devastating consequences of these lockdowns for the very people they are supposed to protect. If we really want to protect the elderly and vulnerable, we should be working fast to normalize society as soon as possible.

British PM a victim of his “herd immunity” policy
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Apr 8 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson remains in an intensive care unit, fighting for his life after self-isolating for 10 days having contracted the coronavirus. Johnson was rushed to London’s St Thomas’ hospital Sunday evening from Downing Street, after his condition worsened and he had problems breathing. On Monday evening he was sent to an intensive care ward. On Mar 27, the prime minister announced on Twitter that he had been diagnosed with coronavirus. In upbeat tones he declared:

I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus, that’s to say, a temperature and a persistent cough. Be in no doubt that I can continue to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus.

Despite attempts by Johnson, his government and the media to play down how ill he was, it was clear to everyone from the brief video messages he tweeted from Downing Street and when he emerged from the door of Number 10 last Thursday to join in the national “clap for the NHS” that he was in in a bad way. Trying to downplay Johnson’s plight, a Downing Street spokesman issued a statement Tuesday saying:

PM Johnson is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance and does not have pneumonia.

This prompted banner headlines declaring that Johnson was not being ventilated and was “stable.” But while Johnson is not on a ventilator, he is one step away from requiring it. The University of Reading’s Dr Simon Clarke said:

The NHS, particularly at this moment, doesn’t give up intensive care beds just for people to be looked over. It doesn’t work like that, even for prime ministers.

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, commented:

Sadly about half of cases (50.1%) that go into critical care still die. This is much higher than for other viral pneumonias (22.4%).

Speaking at a press conference Monday, Dominic Raab said he would be carrying out duties on Johnson’s behalf. It was revealed that Michael Gove is also self-isolating, and Downing Street issued a statement that should Raab be unable to fulfill his duties, they would be assumed by Rishi Sunak. It has emerged that attempts to downplay Johnson’s predicament were only finally abandoned because the Pindo administration asked directly how bad he was. The Daily Mail reported Tuesday:

It took an intervention from our oldest ally master across the Atlantic for questions to be asked about just how serious Mr Johnson’s illness was. When Donald Trump declared that all Pindos were praying for the prime minister, it soon emerged this was not typical hyperbole from the President.

Despite acres of coverage, little is being even hinted at regarding the most blindingly obvious fact: Johnson contracted COVID-19 and requires intensive care because he was a victim of his government’s own policy of tackling the virus by means of achieving “herd immunity,” the mass infection of the population. Johnson, If carried out as planned, this policy would have resulted in untold thousands dying. On Mar 3, with the virus spreading rapidly and 100,000 cases recorded globally and with the WHO warning of a potential pandemic, Johnson told a press conference:

I continue to shake hands.

He said he had just visited a hospital ward that included meeting COVID-19 patients and had shaken everyone’s hand. Two days later, as the UK’s first death from coronavirus was announced, and after shaking hands with the hosts of ITV This Morning, Johnson was asked why there was no cancellation of public events or closing of schools. He replied:

One of the theories is, that perhaps you could take it on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures.

Later that day he declared:

Basically we’re saying, Wash your hands and business as usual.

On Mar 12, flanked by his chief medical and scientific officers, Johnson announced the herd immunity policy. One day earlier, health minister Nadine Dorries announced she had caught the virus. She had been in touch with hundreds of people, including Johnson. As deaths mounted, Johnson was forced to announce social distancing measures and then a lockdown on Mar 23. Johnson and the government clearly believed their own PR and disregarded scientifically grounded warnings from health experts as to how infectious and dangerous COVID-19 is. He continued attending Parliament until it went into recess on Mar 25. The previous day he held a cabinet meeting in Downing Street with three other cabinet members present. Three of the four attending in person, Johnson, Hancock and Whitty were laid low by the virus. On Mar 27, Johnson finally announced he had contracted COVID-19 and had “mild symptoms.” The blasé attitude to the coronavirus impacted on Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds, who is six months pregnant. She remained with Johnson at Downing Street until he announced he had been diagnosed. On Apr 3, Symonds announced she had spent the previous week ill in bed with coronavirus symptoms. On Mar 30, Johnson’s main adviser Dominic Cummings was seen running out of Downing Street after developing symptoms over the previous days, and has not been seen since. It was not until the very last minute that Johnson received hospital treatment. He became seriously ill because he was trying to maintain a pretence, for political expediency, that he was fine. To do otherwise would have raised again how criminal his “herd immunity” policy was. Johnson et al were keen to stress that the COVID-19 pandemic would soon spike and begin to level off, after which the UK economy would need to get back to normal—meaning workers must return promptly to their places of employment and begin generating profit for the corporations and banks once again. Whatever Johnson’s personal fate, the herd immunity policy that landed him seriously ill in hospital, in place for weeks before he was forced to abandon it, has contributed to many thousands of people nationwide becoming infected and thousands dying. As the WSWS reported on the day Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital, nine National Health Service workers and 12 public transport workers were reported to have died. Their blood is on the government’s hands.

UK postal workers take unofficial strike action over lack of safety measures
Paul Lee, WSWS, Apr 8 2020

Postal workers in three separate parts of the country, Hedge End in Hampshire, Winchester and Medway, Kent took unofficial strike action over safety concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Workers in Hedge End walked out because of an “unsafe workplace,” one said. They felt that Royal Mail had treated them “with no respect.” According to one worker, the strike in Hedge End had been “bubbling up for several weeks.” Postal workers at Hedge End face similar conditions to those all over the country. One month into the pandemic, postal workers are still not able to social distance and have a lack of personal protection equipment when out delivering mail. As one worker said:

How are we supposed to wash our hands on a four-hour shift delivering post? It is just ridiculous, and some of us are having to supply our own equipment.

Postal workers have received backing from residents in Winchester, who have taken to social media to show their support. Before these latest strikes had broken out, postal workers in Scotland had taken unofficial action over similar safety concerns. Communication Workers Union members at a delivery office in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, walked out on Monday, refusing to deliver any more junk mail. At the same time, postal workers are being forced to deliver over 30m letters containing the UK government’s coronavirus health advice. One worker said:

Postmen and women are dying delivering leaflets and non-essential items. There should be outrage amongst all posties and the public.

It was announced recently that two postal workers had died of the coronavirus. One postal worker expressed the anger felt by thousands, saying:

We get told the golden rule is to wash hands, but when you are out on delivery, everywhere is shut, so it is impossible to do, and it is impossible to keep two metres apart. People at home are treating it like a second Xmas, so we are hammered every day with packets, which makes the spread of the virus a high risk. This is why Royal Mail is mistreating us. They are making the shareholders a fortune, and we are sitting ducks!

The callous way Royal Mail has acted is made possible by the CWU. Knowing the danger from the beginning, the union offered postal workers up on a plate to the government by calling off a planned strike and proposing to act as a “fifth emergency service.” It is only when postal workers have taken unofficial action that the CWU has been forced to respond, but only verbally. CWU Gen Sec Dave Ward said:

If workplaces do not have the right safety and social distancing measures, you should not be working, and we will back you.

But actions speak louder than words. The last few weeks of union activity, during which many workers undoubtedly became infected, were a pantomime. The CWU’s sole intention has been to maintain a well-paid seat at the negotiating table with Royal Mail and the government, under the guise of establishing an ‘emergency service.’ If the CWU will not act even when its members’ lives are imperilled, then of what possible use is the union? Royal Mail workers have reached the end of the road with the CWU. Like workers everywhere, they have been brought face to face with the transformation of the trade unions into appendages of corporate management and the state. Like their colleagues in Hedge End, Winchester, Medway and Alloa, postal workers must now take matters into their own hands. Rank and file committees independent of the CWU bureaucracy must be established in every workplace to coordinate strike action, wherever there is a failure to defend the workforce from infection. Postal workers must also reach out to workers in other industries facing similar dangerous conditions, especially in delivery services such as Amazon, cutting across all attempts to pit one section of the working class against another. Those who want to organise a genuine fightback should contact the Socialist Equality Party.

Unions agree to salary furlough at British Airways
Paul Bond, WSWS, Apr 8 2020

Two trade unions last week agreed terms for a salary furlough for more than 30,000 British Airways workers in a “modified” version of the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The workers will receive 80% of their wages from the government’s wage subsidy scheme, but BA will also pay 80% of their allowances rather than observing the restriction on 80% of total earnings. The unions were also negotiating for shift pay to be included in the 80% figure. The deal has been put to BA workers for a decision by Apr 15. The Unite union claims it has secured BA’s agreement that no worker will be laid off without pay during the furlough, and that there will be no redundancies, but this seems only a temporary halt to ongoing redundancy processes. The unions have said nothing about what will follow. The GMB trade union’s Nadine Houghton wrote only:

There will be a ‘pause’ on the current redundancy consultation.

Commentators are already asking how many staff BA will actually require when operations resume. The inclusion of allowances, enabling the agreement to exceed 80% of earnings, is misleading. It highlights the way lower wages are often disguised by allowances and extras that form no part of basic income. It is also more likely to benefit only higher-paid employees. One commentator said BA’s deal may be expensive “given the numbers of managerial staff who will benefit.” Staff costs are estimated to account for around 40% of an airline’s expenditure. Other airlines, including EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, have also applied for government funds. EasyJet, which is not currently flying, has secured a £600m government loan and will seek another $500 million in commercial loans. Unions have agreed to EasyJet’s furlough of 4,000 of its 9,000 pilots and crew. Major shareholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou previously told them to take unpaid leave, days after pocketing his personal dividend of nearly £60m. He is demanding the company cancel a contract with Airbus for new planes, stating that he will not put any further money into EasyJet otherwise. Alongside BA, Virgin, the most vocal in demanding government bailouts for the aviation industry, is being hired by the government for repatriation flights. With many rivals grounded, BA is taking a major cut of the £75m fee for these flights. Its 16,500 cabin crew are the largest group of BA workers affected. Part of their pay is directly made up of flying allowances, so many will lose more than 20% of their income. A week earlier, BA stood down new entrants to their Mixed Fleet cabin crew, telling them:

You will be laid off during this time, and the company will not be making any pension contributions during the lay-off period.

BA’s deal, negotiated by Unite and supported by the GMB, enables workers to divert their pension contributions into salary during the furlough. This may bring them closer to actual salary, as pension contributions range between 9% and 18% of pay at the company but deprives them of pension benefits later. Where BA continues operations, suspensions will be shared between staff, with alternating attendance of six weeks off and two weeks on. BA has completely suspended all operations at some airports, where all staff will be furloughed. Website Travelmole reports:

Many of the furloughed workers are expected to sign up to various volunteer programmes as part of the airline’s efforts to fight Covid-19.

Some 36,000 workers are affected, including cabin crew, ground staff, engineers, and head office workers. Four in every five workers in this sector are affected.
The Unite/GMB deal follows an earlier deal between BA and the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), representing pilots. BALPA agreed a temporary 50 percent pay cut and unpaid leave for BA’s 4,000 pilots, who will not be paid for two weeks in both April and May. The shortfall will be spread across three months. The coronavirus pandemic is having an enormous impact in aviation, with all travel reduced and airports closing down operations. The International Air Transport Association has predicted airline losses of around $40b in the next three months, in part because of the cost of refunding cancelled flights. BA is currently still flying, although it expects to operate only 10% of its usual flights during April and May. Having suspended flights at London City, the airline has now also stopped flying from London Gatwick, aiming to consolidate continued operations from London Heathrow Terminal 5. Heathrow has announced it will be closing one runway from this week. Airports across Britain are closing and furloughing workers. BA’s parent company IAG has announced it will not be paying shareholders a dividend this year. CEO Alex Cruz has spoken of BA’s “battle to survive” and the need “to act now to protect jobs and ensure BA comes out the other side of this crisis in the best possible shape.” In order to be the “last man standing,” this requires an escalation of attacks on BA’s workforce, with Cruz emailing staff that the furlough decision offered “an immediate relief on the company’s financial position.” Unite’s national officer for aviation, Oliver Richardson, described its agreement with BA “as good a deal as possible” during “this unprecedented time for the airline sector.” One source told the Sun:

Both sides are doing what they can for their loyal staff and members while ensuring that the airline survives.

The GMB’s Nadine Houghton went so far as to describe the bailing out of BA as part of campaign for “the people’s bailout package.” She appealed for “more government intervention to protect the livelihoods of many more workers across the sector,” but what it is in reality is a policy to hand even more of the public purse over to the conglomerates. The sincerity of BA’s commitment to its workers can be gauged by the fact that it only agreed to allow crew to wear masks during flights last week. Workers complained that they had been told to make do with their usual uniform. BA’s attitude was common in the industry. Workers at Manchester Airport said they had been provided with masks but no gloves or hand sanitiser. Early last month, BA crew expressed fears of raised infection risk because planes were deep cleaned only monthly. One cabin crew member said:

The aircraft were given a basic clean by cleaners who use the same cloths to wipe down galleys and surfaces.

Even as BA stood down crew without any clear idea how staff levels would be filled, there were complaints to crew boss Amy James about compromised safety due to non-existent social distancing. Senior crew wrote:

From the moment crew arrive at the car park our safety is being compromised, on the bus to Terminal 5, in the briefing room where we all sit shoulder to shoulder, on the crew transport to the hotel where we sit next to each other, in small galleys with our colleagues, and of course in the cabin where we have hundreds of passengers that we spend hours in contact with.

Enthusiasm for government wage subsidies is not confined to aviation. Publishers are also furloughing staff and cutting wages. JPI Media, which produces The Scotsman, has furloughed 350 staff, implementing 15% wage cuts for the remainder. Evening Standard owner ESI Media has furloughed some staff and cut wages by 20% for those earning over £37,500. The latest to follow suit is Reach, formerly Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and many regional titles. Announcing a 20% pay cut for all board members and most senior editorial staff, the halting of company bonus schemes for 2020, and the cancellation of the 2019 final dividend, Reach furloughed 940 staff, around one fifth of the total, on 90% of their wages. Again, this will likely impact on the lowest-paid employees. Reach made a point of emphasising that the reduced pay would not fall below the Living Wage of just £9.30/hr and £10.75/hr in London. Reach’s chief executive Jim Mullen and chief financial officer Simon Fuller will not have a problem, having each received almost £300k in 2019 bonuses at the end of March. They were also given shares worth £1.18m relating to the company’s long-term incentive scheme. The National Union of Journalists do not appear to have been consulted on Reach’s proposals, but have responded as to what their role will be in implementing the cuts. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said:

We are in discussions with the company about the measures they have announced, nand we intend to engage fully with them about those provisions and how management seeks to apply them.

Reach is also seeking discussions on deferring payments to its pension fund, to which it pays £4.1m/month. In last year’s annual report, Reach posted a pension deficit of £295.9m. Reach had made £48.9m in payments, exposing the reality of talk about “a deferment of current contributions.” Reach’s pre-tax profits for 2019 were £150.6m on revenues of £702.5m.

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