death, the devil & the yetzer hara are one and the same (resh lakish)

Pindostan nears a new one-day high of COVID-19 infections
Benjamin Mateus, Jun 25 2020

As the first wave of the pandemic in Pindostan continues unabated, yesterday Pindostan posted 38,386 new COVID-19 infections, according to Worldometer coronavirus tracker, just short of the high set on Apr 24 when the same index reported 39,072 cases. Even this horrific figure was exceeded by Brazil, which had a staggering 40,995 new cases reported on Jun 24. Nearly two-thirds of the new Pindo cases, more than 23k, came in seven states across the south and southwest: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. The Pindo epicenter of the disease, previously in the NYC area, as well as urban areas across the north, from Boston to Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, has now shifted to the Sunbelt. Texas had 4,092 patients whose COVID-19 cases were so serious they required hospitalization, the largest figure for any state, and Houston, the largest city in Texas, is in danger of a New York-style overflow of its hospital system.

In approximately three weeks, 500k more Pindos have fallen victim to the coronavirus, and by all accounts, the curve of cumulative cases has begun to accelerate. There are now more than 2.45m cases and close to 125k deaths in Pindostan, according to Worldometer. During these three weeks, the pandemic has been expanding in both scale and scope. 33 states are now reporting rising seven-day averages, up from nine states seeing such increases on Jun 9. With 4.4% of the world’s population, Pindostan has 26% of the world’s coronavirus cases and 26% of its coronavirus deaths. These figures by themselves are an indictment of Pindo capitalism and the Pindo ruling class, as well as of the Pindo government at all levels, Demagog & Thug, and the profit-driven health-care system.

According to the Trump White House, the current increase in COVID-19 cases is not a real public health emergency, but an artifact of increased testing. The disease is not really spreading, it is just that greatly increased testing is finding disease that was already there. This argument has culminated in Trump’s monumentally stupid claim that if testing were reduced, there would be fewer cases of the disease. This argument not only fails the test of logic, it falsifies the actual course of testing, with the daily rate for Pindostan remaining at a totally inadequate 400k to 500k. Yet, since mid-June, the rate of positive tests has been climbing, currently reaching a figure of 5.5% for the country as a whole. This suggests that community transmission is increasing, particularly in those states that have been the most aggressive in reopening businesses and encouraging the resumption of social gatherings where the virus can easily spread.

Using data obtained through the COVID-19 tracking project website, the WSJ found alarming figures for the worst-affected states for the week ending Jun 23. For Arizona, 22.1% of tests for COVID-19 returned a positive result, nearly one in every four tests. South Carolina is at 15.9%, Florida at 13%, Utah at 12.7%, Mississippi at 11.9% and Texas at 10.9%. By contrast, countries that have effectively suppressed or contained the infection have tested so widely that the figure for positive tests is below 1%, or 100 tests performed for every case detected. According to the University of Minnesota’s COVID-19 hospitalization tracker, as of Jun 24 over 25k people are in hospitals throughout the country undergoing treatment for coronavirus infection. Texas and California have the highest number of hospitalizations with 4,092 and 3,868 patients respectively. The tracker indicates that there are 1,225 patients in ICUs. Arizona has 2,136 patients hospitalized, of whom 614 are in ICUs and 386 on mechanical ventilators. The state public health department reported that the ICU utilization in the state is at 88%, with only 200 ICU beds available throughout the state.

Obtaining testing in Arizona has quickly become more difficult with longer wait times in the punishing heat. There are growing delays in test results and growing shortages in the supply of testing materials such as reagents and nasal swabs. The number of cases is growing faster than testing capacity. Health officials are also lamenting the need for more trained personnel at hospitals to treat patients. All of the very same issues that had erupted in April in New York and New Jersey have returned to plague Arizona. Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said that in the reopening of the state, no guidance was given beyond issuing a perfunctory statement to maintain voluntary vigilance in public spaces, which only led to normalizing pre-pandemic behavior. An infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Arizona, Kacey Ernst, said:

Many people equate reopening with being safe. While there certainly is some uptake of masks and physical distancing, it is not ubiquitous. We are not yet in the place where we have a well-developed capacity to test and do contact tracing for all our cases.

California smashed its daily record with more than 6k infections reported on Jun 22. Dr Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s Public Health Director, said that the spike in cases correlates with the mass protests that broke out in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. However, other clusters are a direct contribution from recent social gatherings and parties. Los Angeles County’s positivity rate has climbed from 5.8% of those tested just two weeks ago to 8.4%. Florida continued to see cases rise with 3,286 COVID-19 infections on Jun 23. The state has surpassed 100k total cases of COVID-19. Along with the rise in cases, metrics followed by Miami-Dade County public health demonstrate that since the beginning of June, the number of ICU patients and those on mechanical ventilation has started to climb. Since Pindostan lifted its restrictions and lockdowns in the latter part of May, officials across several states have noted that many of the new cases of COVID-19 are among young people who are more resilient to the infection. Health officials fear that this may lead to the transmission back into the more vulnerable communities. Dr Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tweeted

Dr Mike Ryan, speaking at a press briefing by the World Health Organization, was asked about predicting peaks of outbreaks. He replied:

It’s very difficult to predict peaks. The peak has an awful lot to do with what you do. What you do affects the peak. It affects the height of the peak, the length of the peak, and the trajectory downwards. That has everything to do with the government’s intervention to respond, the community’s cooperation with that intervention and the health care and the public health-care systems’ capacity to act. The virus does not act alone. The virus exploits weak surveillance; the virus exploits weak health systems; the virus exploits poor governance; the virus exploits a lack of education and a lack of empowerment of communities … the numbers respond to the response. There are no spells here. You can’t divine this away.

Though he didn’t mention any country by name, undeniably, Dr Ryan clearly had Pindostan in mind. Dr Anthony Fauci, in his House Energy and Commerce Committee testimony on Tuesday, explained that the “virus was not going to disappear,” and that the next two weeks would be critical, because death lags cases. In plain English, that means the sharp rise in new cases will be followed about two to three weeks later by a sharp rise in deaths. Dr Fauci at the hearing explained:

I’ve been dealing with viral outbreaks for the last 40 years. I’ve never seen a single virus, that is one pathogen, have a range where 20% to 40% of the people have no symptoms.

He went on to add that asymptomatic patients have viral loads not significantly different than in symptomatic patients, making them equally contagious. He urged the continued measures of social distancing and universal usage of face-masks to protect community transmission. Moreover, asymptomatic patients can still suffer significant damage to their health. When medically evaluated by imaging techniques like CT scans or x-rays, more than half showed signs of inflammation in the lungs.

Hundreds of thousands of Illinois workers forced to risk health for profits under “Phase 4” of economic reopening
Jessica Goldstein, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

Illinois Demagog Governor J B Pritzker announced Monday that the state would enter its fourth phase of reopening Friday after lifting several more lockdown measures that have been in place since the executive Stay-at-Home order went into effect Mar 21. On Tuesday, the state reported an increase in COVID-19 positivity, to a rate of 3% for the tests conducted in the last week, as infection rates surge nationwide. It was 2% on Jun 21. In Phase 4 of the official “Restore Illinois” plan, the size limit of all indoor and outdoor gatherings is expanded from 10 to 50 individuals, including events such as conferences and weddings. Museums and zoos may reopen at 25% of normal capacity and indoor gyms, fitness centers, cinemas and theaters will be allowed to open at 50% capacity.

This marks the fourth and final phase according to Pritzker’s plan before the “post-pandemic” phase supposedly characterized by “vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors,” according to the official “Restore Illinois” website. In reality, the pandemic is nowhere near over anywhere on earth, and the Democratic state government’s assertions can only be seen as delusional. Phase 4 is going forward in spite of Chicago health officials’ release of statistics that reveal that there is a 5 percent chance of an active coronavirus case in a group of 10 people, with the odds increasing to 15% in a group of 50 people, up to 33% in a group of 100, and 66% in gatherings of 250 or more.

Other businesses and services which will open with restrictions include outdoor spectator events, indoor and outdoor sporting events, some park district programs and youth summer camps. Restaurants across the state have been open for outdoor dining since the third phase, which began May 28 for the state and May 29 for the city of Chicago, a national hotspot for the epidemic. Though daily cases have dropped since the end of May, the state has consistently recorded between 0.5k and 1.0k new daily cases of COVID-19. Chicago deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development Samir Mayekar expects a total of 200k more workers in the city to return to work under the next phase of the reopening plan. Speaking at a press conference with Chicago Demagog Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday, Public Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady made it clear that while the state and city are moving ahead with plans to reopen more sections of economic life, the spread of the pandemic is far from being contained. Arwady stated:

In Chicago, we are adding around 200 cases a day, we know that people are infectious for about 10 days, generally from the time that they first acquire COVID, which means that at any given point we have around 2k active infections that we know about here in Chicago. There are many, many cases of COVID-19 in Chicago that are not diagnosed, many more people who have mild symptoms, or even no symptoms of COVID.

During Phase 4, restaurants around the state, including the city of Chicago, will be allowed to open for indoor seating on Friday. Chicago restaurants will be able to seat at 25% of indoor capacity with tables six feet apart and restaurants across the rest of the state will open for 50% of indoor capacity. The decision to move ahead with the next phase of reopening, without mass testing and contact-tracing programs in place, can only be understood as a reckless action carried out by the capitalist state led by the Democratic Party.
State officials in Illinois have had ample warning of the consequences of moving into the next phase from states like Florida. Little more than one week after opening bars and restaurants in the state, at least six bars in northern and central Florida shut their doors again after patrons and workers tested positive for the virus. The state of Florida has seen a 168% increase in new cases over the past two weeks since it entered its current stage of reopening.

Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot have cited falling case numbers and stabilizing hospitalizations and death rates in Illinois as justification for their homicidal plans. But any suppression of the spread is due to the vast majority of workers abiding by the restrictions of the state lockdown, including the wearing of face masks in public spaces. The next stage will likely see a surge of cases in the state as these measures are further relaxed. Studies have shown that restaurant dining is a proven vector of COVID-19. A February study approved by the Centers for Disease Control, “COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020” found that an asymptomatic carrier released low levels of virus into the air while eating as airflow from the restaurant’s vents carried it from right to left. The study found that approximately 50% of the people at the infected person’s table became sick over the following week as well as 75% of the people at the adjacent table.

Food service workers are particularly vulnerable and concerned for their health and safety under these conditions, even in the wake of high unemployment and lack of any financial safety net after many had been furloughed following the March executive order. The total unemployment rate in Illinois stands at roughly 15% and the state’s moratorium on evictions is set to expire Jul 31. The state has only offered health guidelines, not regulations, related to restaurant openings, which place responsibility on the shoulders of the workers themselves. These include the recommended use of face masks by workers within six feet of others, 20 seconds of hand washing by workers every 30 minutes, and for workers to monitor their personal health daily. Patrons are not required to wear face masks while dining. Among some of the most heavily-exploited workers in the city, Chicago food service workers spoke out against being required to sacrifice their health for business interests on the local news outlet BlockClubChicago. One server said:

I don’t want to risk my health and put my body on the line so I can serve people some cocktails and steaks. There are no safety nets for me, so what would I be risking myself for by going back?

Another worker, who works two food service jobs to make ends meet, stated:

They haven’t offered sick pay, hazard pay, to cover our health benefits if we do get sick. Nothing to make us want to work for them and feel safe doing so.

These workers will join thousands of others across the state who have been forced to put their lives at risk for profits. Manufacturing at plants owned by the Detroit-based automakers in the state began on May 18, 10 days before Illinois officially moved into Phase 3 of the plan. Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant on the south side of Chicago shut down just days after restarting production when positive COVID-19 cases were found among workers at the plant. Since then, the auto corporations and the United Auto Workers have systematically concealed information about positive cases in the auto plants from workers and the public at large. Workers in at least two Amazon warehouses in Illinois are reporting clusters of cases, with 16 at MDW2 in Joliet and 14 at MDW7 in Monee, according to data compiled independently by former Amazon worker Jana Jumpp.

A real answer to mass unemployment does not require putting hundreds of thousands of more workers’ lives at risk. For decades, the Demagog & Thug state and municipal boxtops in Illinois have siphoned off money for workplace safety, social safety nets and public health and education programs to put toward corporate incentives, tax breaks for the state’s millionaires and billionaires and militarizing the police. The serious problems of mass unemployment and COVID-19 face all workers in every country. The solution must be international and socialist, joining together all workers in a struggle to expropriate the vast wealth of society from the capitalist class and place it under democratic control of the creators of that wealth, the working class.

Workers in Illinois determined to fight against the homicidal herd immunity policy carried out by the Demagog Party in the name of the capitalist elite need a political party and program to fight for their basic rights to a halt to non-essential production, full unemployment coverage and health-care benefits, the highest quality personal protective equipment, and the most effective public health measures informed by science to combat the pandemic. The SEP is the only such party fighting for these basic rights of the international working class. We encourage all eligible Illinois readers to sign and share the petition today to place our 2020 US presidential and vice presidential candidates Joseph Kishore and Norissa Santa Cruz on the election ballot in Illinois for the November 2020 elections.

COVID-19 cases rapidly surge in Texas
Trévon Austin, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

A dramatic surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Texas is straining local hospitals to the breaking point. Over the past 12 days, the average number of cases and hospitalizations in the state reached record highs. Last weekend, the number of new daily cases surpassed 4k for the first time. On Tuesday, Texas confirmed over 5k cases for the first time. Along with the sheer quantity of cases is the rise in the number of cases so severe that they require hospitalization. According to state officials, at least 4,092 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state by Tuesday afternoon. It marked the 12th straight day of rising hospitalization rates and the first time Texas hospitals held more than 4k coronavirus patients. On the same day, the number of new confirmed cases reached 5,489. Texas has experienced an exponential rise in cases over the past two weeks. Jun 10 was the first time the state reported more than 2k new cases in a day. A week later, on Jun 17, there were more than 3k new cases. On June 20, Texas recorded more than 4k cases for the first time. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state has more than doubled since the beginning of the month. North Texas currently has at least 1,074 people hospitalized in the region. Tarrant County saw a 20% increase in patients, rising from 268 people to 318. Dallas County reported 470 patients. A third spike occurred in Amarillo, which experienced an outbreak at a meatpacking plant, filling ICU capacity in less than five days.

Houston’s Texas Medical Center, the largest such facility in the world, has reached 97% of its normal ICU bed capacity. The medical center can create an additional 1k ICU beds if it implements emergency measures, but experts worry that hospitals throughout the Houston area will be overwhelmed soon. On Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reported 1,789 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the city’s total to 14,322. If current trends continue, experts worry that Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, will become an epicenter on the scale of NYC, which had seen 213k cases, of whom more than 30k died. Dr Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said that Houston could become the worst impacted city in Pindostan. The number of COVID-19-positive hospital patients in Harris County, which includes Houston, has nearly tripled since the end of May. He told local news outlet ABC 13 News:

We are potentially facing a very serious public health threat.

The Texas Medical Center anticipates its ICU capacity could be exhausted in two weeks. Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in Pindostan, announced that it would admit adult patients across its campuses to alleviate pressure on other Houston hospitals. Dr David Persse, health authority for the Houston Health Dept, told the Texas Tribune:

What we had before was a ripple compared to what we’re about to experience.

The number of ICU patients exceeded bed capacity at LBJ Hospital, and some had to be temporarily moved to other hospitals. According to a Harris Health System spokesperson, 76% of ICU beds were full as of Monday. City boxtops have suggested local convention centers and stadiums could be used as temporary overflow facilities. The uptick in cases comes weeks after Governor Greg Abbott relaxed social distancing measures and allowed businesses to reopen in May. Texas was one of the first states to reopen after the Trump administration pushed its back-to-work campaign. In the past, Abbott insisted Texas had the capacity to contain any new outbreaks, but then was forced to implement new health and safety measures. On Tuesday he held a press conference at which he urged the state’s residents to stay home, avoid going out unnecessarily, and follow public health protocols. He had lifted state restrictions by allowing cities to restrict public gatherings of more than 100 people. Amid the spike in cases, the Trump administration is ending support for 13 coronavirus testing sites across the country, including 7 in Texas. Local boxtops and medical experts are asking for funding for the sites to be extended, warning of “catastrophic cascading consequences.” Four of the testing sites are in Houston and Harris County. According to the Houston Chronicle, two of these sites conduct more than 500 tests per day and make up the backbone of the city’s testing capacity.

Brazilian government hides scale of COVID-19 pandemic to promote criminal reopening
Tomas Castanheira, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

Leading the devastating growth of COVID-19 in Latin America, Brazil has surpassed 1m cases and 50k deaths according to its official figures. There has been a continuous increase in weekly averages of new cases and daily deaths since the first contamination was reported in March. Last Friday registered a record of over 55.2k cases in a single day, as well as four days in a row with more than 1.2k deaths. Despite this, the entire country has already adopted drastic policies to reopen economic activities, justified with baseless claims of a ”stabilization” of the disease and of health-care systems. The virus’s staggering toll is being minimized by political authorities as “below the highest projections,” as stated by Patricia Ellen, the secretary of Economic Development of São Paulo, the most affected state in the country, which recorded a record 434 deaths in a single day this Tuesday.

As frightening as they may be, official figures are a gross underestimate of reality, as Brazilian and international researchers have been warning for months. On Monday, the WHO voiced concern about underreporting of cases in Brazil, revealed by the high percentage of positive results in COVID-19 tests, around 31% in Brazil, while in other countries it is usually 17%. The official death toll has also been widely questioned. Researchers point, on the one hand, to an explosion in the number of deaths due to nonspecific severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and, on the other hand, to the profound differences between the total number of deaths due to natural causes in 2019 and 2020 that do not correspond to the numbers attributed to COVID-19. A report published by Globo last weekend reported that more than 21k deaths that have been registered as SARS are suspected cases of COVID-19. Since February, the state of Minas Gerais has accumulated thousands of deaths registered as SARS and not tested for COVID-19. Based on these false figures, authorities decreed in late May the reopening of commerce in the capital Belo Horizonte. On that occasion, Mayor Alexandre Kalil of the Social Democratic Party said it was not he who was reopening the city, but rather “doctors and science.” The result of this irresponsible reopening was the increase in the ICU bed occupancy rate in the city from 40% to 74%, which the “guardian of science” Kalil attributed to the sloppy use of masks and increasing numbers of barbecues.

Like Belo Horizonte, several other Brazilian cities have registered a high occupancy of hospital beds in recent weeks. In large cities of São Paulo’s state interior, hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 have already reached full capacity and are refusing new admissions; the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, has 100 percent of its COVID-19 beds occupied; treatment centers for COVID-19 in Curitiba, capital of Paraná, and Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, have also reached full capacity. On the other hand, in other cities and states, a decrease in the occupation of ICU beds has been presented by political leaders as a sign that the virus is under control. Researchers and medical authorities have also confronted this bald claim. Domingos Alves, professor of the Medical School of the University of São Paulo, told the BBC:

The decrease in occupation occurs by the simple fact that the total number of available beds has been increased. There are governors and mayors who are resorting to this trick to say that the situation has improved and to reopen commercial activities, but when you look, the number of cases is increasing.

A survey conducted by the Brazilian Intensive Care Medicine Association’s “ICU Project” concluded the mortality rate of patients with the COVID-19 in public system units is of 38.5%, twice that of private health system units, with 19.5%. This brutal difference is not linked, according to the researchers, so much to the difference in infrastructure between the two systems, as to the severity of the disease among patients who receive intensive care. In the public system, 66.5% of patients enter the ICU already requiring mechanical ventilation, while in the private system this number is 36.8%. The policy of reopening the economy completely disregards science and follows a single criterion: the interests of capitalist profit. The main advocate of such measures is Bolsonaro, who has been promoting a fierce campaign against any form of containment of the virus, which involves the spread of false cures such as HCQ, while encouraging the breaking of quarantines and even the invasion of hospitals by his far-right supporters.

This criminal reopening policy has been embraced by all sectors of the Brazilian political establishment, including the so-called opposition of the Workers’ Party and its allies governing north-eastern states. A study by Oxford University published this Monday analyzed the measures adopted in eight of the main Brazilian capitals São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Manaus and Porto Alegre, and concluded that they all reopened without meeting the basic requirements set by the WHO. Besides the general lack of testing, Brazil is not carrying out any contact-tracing measures which would allow isolation of the virus. Speaking about the Brazilian situation, the WHO’s technical director Maria Van Kerkhove asked:

Where is the transmission happening? In health facilities, in nursing homes, related to specific events? It is necessary to have these details to control the virus.

The answer to these questions is being blocked not only by the incompetence and neglect of the governments, but by their complacency in relation to the continuation of activities tied to the transmission of the disease. As the WSWS reported last week, the operation of meat processing plants and mining companies under unsafe conditions has caused contamination of entire cities. New outbreaks of COVID-19 in dozens of workplaces throughout Brazil have been reported in just the last few days. These cases have received, at best, marginal attention from the media and are not presented as the generalized phenomenon they clearly have become. The meatpacking industry continues to be the main scenario of new explosions. Last Friday, a JBS plant in Caxias do Sul, in Rio Grande do Sul, had 412 workers testing positive for the new coronavirus. The site had already been closed at the beginning of the month by the courts, after the confirmation of more than 20 infected workers, but it was reopened four days later and continues to operate now. Another meat processing plant, in Cabreúva, in the countryside of São Paulo, was ordered closed by the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) last week after the more than 50 workers tested positive and investigations revealed extremely risky working conditions, such as a lack of ventilation and crowded spaces. But the plant continued to operate with infected employees until workers held a protest on Monday, forcing its closure.

New outbreaks were also reported in Bradesco bank branches throughout the country. In Feira de Santana, Bahia, the MPT ordered the closure of the bank’s branches, claiming that the management kept employees with symptoms of COVID-19 at work for days and, even after five of them tested positive, refused to adopt the minimum recommendations and prevented inspection of its facilities. Last Friday, an explosion of coronavirus cases was reported at a Petrobras unit in Bahia. According to Correio 24 Horas, there are more than 200 infected workers at the Landulpho Alves refinery, most of them outsourced employees. One of them, 36-yr-old drill operator Johnny Mafort, died in mid-April. Outbreaks at several Petrobras refineries and platforms are being deliberately covered up. Under the pretext of medical confidentiality, the number of workers killed by COVID-19 is not being revealed. Since May, the company’s bulletins no longer disclose the infection rate among outsourced employees, excluding two thirds of the workers from its reports. Nevertheless, the number of cases confirmed up to Jun 15 exceeds 1.3k. Last week, Estadão reported that the Brazilian Intelligence Agency ABIN has alerted the Bolsonaro administration to the accelerated spread of COVID-19 among Petrobras workers since May. A major concern presented by Abin was that workers will react with a strike.

The strikes and protests at working places are the most powerful opposition to the anti-scientific policies allowing the coronavirus to spread freely. This response has gained increasing appeal in different sectors of the Brazilian working class. Strikes against unsafe conditions are being carried out this week by health professionals in Piauí and Espírito Santo and by subway employees in Minas Gerais. The movement in Brazil is directly connected to and strengthened by the growing opposition of workers around the world to the deadly policies advanced by capitalism. In recent days, the WSWS has reported strikes by autoworkers in Mexico and post office workers in England, responding to the contamination of their workplaces. The pandemic is a global problem and can only be overcome by the collaboration among all countries. While capitalists defend their national “strategic interests” that prevent the effective fight against the virus, the global working class is defending common interests that transcend borders. The global unification of workers’ struggles around the program of overthrowing the capitalist system and implementing socialist policies emerges as the only way to defeat the pandemic and ensure the future of humanity.

India rapidly emerging as epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic in Asia
Wasantha Rupasinghe, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

The total number of coronavirus cases in India is fast approaching 0.5m as infection rates continue to accelerate. New infections set yet another daily record yesterday, with 16,857 cases recorded, bringing the total to over 472k. The rapid, largely uncontrolled spread of the pandemic is the result of the criminal negligence of the BJP government, led by PM Narendra Modi. As coronavirus cases exploded in recent weeks, Modi has overseen the phasing out of virtually all lockdown measures and assured big business that no second such shutdown will occur. Like its counterparts around the world, India’s ruling elite has embraced a policy of “herd immunity” that threatens to cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives. Total cases in India have more than doubled within less than three weeks as a result. Close to 250k new infections have been recorded since June 5, when the total case count stood at 226k. The latest 100k cases have been recorded in just the past eight days. Even according to the government’s highly under-reported death count, 14,907 people have now lost their lives, nearly triple the number (5,608) on Jun 1. However, this is an insignificant number for Modi and his advisors. One of the government’s top scientific experts has blithely declared that the policy of reopening the economy could well cost 2m lives. In spite of this horrific prospect, no serious criticism of the Modi government’s reckless course has been forthcoming from the opposition parties, which are implementing the homicidal back-to-work policy wherever they form the state government, or any faction within the ruling elite.

45% of India’s official COVID-19 cases have been reported by two states, Maharashtra, which lies on the west coast and where Mumbai is located, with just over 139k, and the national capital territory Delhi with over 70k. Health Ministry data shows that three other states, Tamil Nadu in the south, Gujarat, on India’s west coast, and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, account for a further 25% of total COVID-19 cases. The overall picture that emerges is that the coronavirus is now deeply entrenched in much of the country, including such large urban centers as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, and is rapidly spreading into rural areas where health-care is even less accessible. As terrible as the official government figures are, there is a widespread consensus that the true extent of the pandemic is much worse. Even before COVID-19, just 70% of deaths in India were registered and only a fifth of these are medically certified, as highlighted by the IndiaSpend web portal. As an example of the extreme unreliability of government figures, the web portal pointed to the official data on malaria in 2017. While government hospitals claimed just 194 malaria deaths occurred in India, the Global Burden of Disease, which uses multiple sources, including verbal autopsies, estimated 50k deaths for the same year.

Delhi has recorded at least 2k COVID-19 cases every day since Jun 17. On Tuesday, it reported its biggest ever one-day increase with nearly 4k cases. Total infections in Delhi are doubling within just 12 days. The dramatic spread of the virus in India’s capital city is directly linked to Modi’s reckless policy of reopening the economy. On June 8, when a stepped-up campaign of re-openings began, dubbed by Modi “Unlock #1,” a total of 29.5k cases had been reported in Delhi since the pandemic began. Over the past 16 days, over 40k new infections have been detected. The disastrous impact of the rapid rise in cases can be seen from the numerous reports of patients and their harried relatives unable to secure treatment, hospital wards where dead bodies remain unremoved due to staff shortages and overflowing morgues. Due to the lack of personal protective equipment, overworked doctors and medical staff are catching the virus in growing numbers. The Hindustan Times reported Tuesday on the appalling situation at Lok Nayak Hospital, Delhi’s biggest COVID-19 hospital with 2,000 beds. Relatives are forced to wait for up to three days to receive information about their loved ones in intensive care. A doctor at the hospital said:

Demands for updates from the relatives of patients are overwhelmed.

On Sunday, the New Indian Express reported that the Maharashtra state government has asked hospitals to use oxygen cylinders to provide immediate relief to COVID-19 patients because of a ventilator shortage. Home to 114m people, Maharashtra has just 3,028 ventilators. Although a BJP government release said it is supplying 50k “Made in India” ventilators to various state governments and union territories, only 2,923 ventilators have been manufactured so far and just 1,340 delivered. For decades, whether the central government has been led by the BJP or the Congress Party, the Indian state has starved the public health system of resources, spending somewhere in the order of 1% to 1.5% of GDP on health-care annually. Despite warnings from health experts that India is especially vulnerable to the pandemic because of its high population density, endemic poverty and ramshackle health-care system, the Modi government has failed to pour resources into fighting COVID-19. As of Jun 23, India had performed 5.17 tests per thousand people, among the lowest testing ratios of any country with a large COVID-19 outbreak. Government projections show that the disastrous health care situation is set to get even worse over the coming weeks. Authorities in Delhi expect the case count to reach a staggering 550k by the end of July. In Gurgaon, an industrial city about 30 km south-west of the capital, where large numbers of workers labour in brutal conditions in manufacturing plants, infections are projected to reach 150k by the end of next month.

Coronavirus is also finding new breeding grounds in India’s rural areas, where nearly 70% of the country’s 1.37b people live. If the health-care system in the major cities is dilapidated and collapsing, in rural India it is all but non-existent. Further compounding the crisis in rural area is the decision of various municipal authorities to prioritize local residents for care, thus closing down the typical practice of rural patients travelling to urban areas for hospital treatment. The rapid spike in COVID-19 cases in rural areas was triggered by the chaotic return of nearly 10m migrant workers to their home villages, a social and health disaster for which the BJP government and Indian elite are wholly responsible. For more than two months the Modi government did next to nothing to halt the spread of COVID-19. Then without any serious preparation and less than four hour’s public notice, it imposed a draconian nationwide lockdown on Mar 25 that resulted in tens of millions of migrant workers and other day labourers losing their jobs overnight. With the BJP government refusing to provide them with any means of sustenance, millions of migrant workers began to return to their villages on foot. It took several days for the authorities to recognise that this mass migration, the largest since the 1947 communal partition of the subcontinent, threatened to spread the virus from the cities to rural India. The government then responded in typical brutal fashion, deploying security forces to herd those making their way home into makeshift, cramped internal refugee camps, where they were often ill-fed and otherwise abused.

After repeated extensions of the lockdown, which had originally been meant to last 21 days, the BJP government, in consultation with the states, finally allowed the migrant workers to go home. But, in a further act of negligence, they failed to systematically test them for COVID-19 and treat the sick before their departure. Due to this criminal policy, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, the states that received most of the returning migrant workers, also have some of the country’s fastest-growing COVID-19 infection rates. Infections have now spread to 98 of the country’s 112 poorest rural districts, up from 34 on Apr 15, according to data from NITI Aayog, the government’s planning body. On Monday, the government said it had released 10b rupees ($132m) to states and union territories for “the welfare of migrant laborers” including accommodation, food, medical treatment and transportation. Given the fact that tens of millions of workers lost their jobs and income since the lockdown was implemented, this is the equivalent of famine rations. As the health and social catastrophe for India’s impoverished workers and toilers deepens, the main concern of the Modi government and the ostensible parliamentary opposition is to reassure big business that nothing will get in the way of their profit-making. At a meeting with state chief ministers last week, Modi dismissed “rumours” about a second lockdown. Despite the rapidly accelerating rate of infection, he insisted that it was time to move to the next phase of “reopening” the economy.

Johnson announces end of UK’s lockdown
Robert Skelton, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

On Tuesday, UK PM Boris Johnson announced the de facto end of what little remains of the lockdown he reluctantly and belatedly imposed in response to public demands to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The bulk of the UK economy, barring “close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas, will reopen Jul 4. All schools will reopen in September. Johnson told MPs:

Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and shops.

Social distancing was effectively ditched by Johnson. He said:

If people are unable stay 2m apart, we will advise them to keep a social distance of 1m+.

This “advice” is meaningless. Everyone knows that social distancing is now over, as far as the government is concerned. The economy is being flung open, with millions being exposed to a still active and widespread virus. Wearing face masks is not being made mandatory, except on public transport. There is no scientific basis to any of this, with the pandemic still raging in Britain and claiming hundreds of lives every week. Johnson announced the end of lockdown on the day the UK recorded another 280 COVID-19 deaths and 921 fresh cases. On Wednesday, a further 154 deaths were announced. The real infection rate is many multiples higher than the 1k or so officially cited. Yesterday, Professor Anthony Costello, a critic of the government’s homicidal herd immunity policy, tweeted:

For weeks, the government has claimed that the UK’s R rate is between 0.7 and 0.9. Last Friday, the UK’s COVID-19 alert level was downgraded from 4 to 3, meaning that the virus is no longer judged to be “high or exponentially rising.” Exposing government lies that the virus is on a “downward curve,” HuffPost UK revealed:

Classified daily document released by Public Health England to health professionals across the UK. The government is not certain that the coronavirus R rate is below 1 in England, meaning the disease may not be under control even as lockdown restrictions are being lifted. There is ‘uncertainty’ around the figure published by the government, which has been used to justify the lowering of the UK’s ‘alert level.’ A copy of last Thursday’s document, titled ‘COVID-19 Situation Report’ and marked ‘OFFICIAL SENSITIVE’, states that because of uncertainty in how accurate the figure is ‘we cannot preclude R being above 1’ in England. The leaked PHE document states that the rate is believed to have risen recently, and explains: “We believe that this is likely to be due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings.” The report also includes other data that have not been made public, most notably that the daily estimate of the number of daily new infections last Thursday stood at 7k. This is in contrast to the figure of actual positive tests reported for the same day, which was 1,346.

Johnson announced the latest reopening measures even as he declared that further outbreaks of the deadly disease are a certainty, telling parliament:

As we have seen in other countries, there will be flare-ups for which local measures will be needed and we will not hesitate to apply the brakes and reintroduce restrictions even at national level if required.

No such local lockdowns have been imposed as vast sections of the economy were reopened in recent weeks. This was despite the R value officially going above 1 in two regions of the country, with a population of over 12m. Outbreaks affecting hundreds of people have been recorded in recent days at food processing and meatpacking plants and in schools. Johnson proceeded despite warnings from scientists that the full reopening of the economy risks a “second wave” of the pandemic. Moreover, the entire world, the UK included, is still being menaced by the first coronavirus wave, with fresh outbreaks everywhere and record daily increases worldwide. On Tuesday, more than 36k new cases were recorded in Pindostan, the third highest number since May 1. In Brazil, there were nearly 30k new cases reported Jun 21, up 30% from two weeks ago. Speaking to Sky News Wednesday, Professor David King, who leads Independent SAGE, made up of scientists concerned at the government’s political misuse of scientific research, said:

If we move too quickly, which is what I think is being proposed here, the risk of running into a second wave becomes very significant. I don’t think there’s anyone who can believe from the scientific point of view that this a wise move.

On Wednesday, the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians and GPs signed an open letter in the British Medical Journal stating:

The available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk.

The ruling elite across the UK’s constituent nations are united in their determination to end the lockdown. On Wednesday, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland’s lockdown will follow moves to reopen the rest of the economy between Jul 3 and Jul 15, when all holiday accommodation will open, along with indoor areas of pubs and restaurants and hairdressers and barbers. All museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries can open. Johnson’s move was hailed in the media, with the Mail headlining, “Jul 4 will be OUR Independence Day.” The Daily Telegraph noted that some MPs had already dubbed the date “Super Saturday,” as “restaurants, hotels, pubs and hairdressers will also be allowed to reopen, and ‘air bridges’ established to save the summer holidays.” The Sun, Daily Express and Metro all had front pages hailing the opening of pubs and photos of people carrying heavy trays of drinks. The ostensibly liberal Guardian editorialised:

The direction of travel is welcome … Mr Johnson is justified in saying that the pandemic now appears to be under control.

The Johnson government declared at the outset of the pandemic it was in favour of the infection of tens of millions of people to reach “herd immunity.” It was only prevented from carrying this out to due to public revulsion, with scientists insisting that it would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths. The government imposed a lockdown, but this was months too late. As a result, the Financial Times estimates that there have been more than 66k “excess deaths” due to COVID-19. This almost matches the 67.1k civilian deaths in WW2. Even the government’s own highly manipulated figures record over 43k dead, the third highest death rate in the world behind Pindostan and Brazil. Johnson has only been able to survive in power and continue to recklessly endanger lives due to the unqualified support he receives from the Labour Party, which operates as a de facto national coalition. Responding to Johnson in parliament, ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer did not even mention the horrific death toll and herd immunity policy, instead reassuring Johnson:

When I was elected leader of the Labour Party, I said that I would offer ‘constructive opposition, with the courage to support the Government’ where they are doing the right thing. … overall I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. I believe that the Government are trying to do the right thing, and in that we will support them.

Johnson could do nothing but reply:

I’m grateful (for the) spirit, the manner and the constructive way in which he has responded.

UNITE union facilitates cover-up of COVID-19 outbreak in UK meat processing plants
Tony Robson, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

Everything possible is being done to protect those responsible for a major outbreak of COVID-19 infections among meat processing workers in England and Wales. UNITE, the largest union in the UK, is playing a central role in this conspiracy. Based on further testing, the rate of infections among meat processing workers has surpassed those originally announced by three companies, which resulted in the temporary shutdown of affected sites at the end of last week. At the 2 Sisters chicken factory in Llangefni, Anglesey, Wales, with a workforce of 560, the total number of workers testing positive is now 175. At Rowan Foods in Wrexham, Wales, which employs 1.5k workers, cases have risen from the 38 originally reported to 70, including family members of employees. No update has been provided in relation to the outbreak in England at Kober Ltd in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, which had reported at least 150 cases. This figure had been disputed as an underestimate based on leaked reports. The 2 Sisters factory is the only one of the three that remains closed until Jul 2, while employees self-isolate. This is the biggest outbreak of COVID-19 in workplaces since the first case of the pandemic was recorded in the UK. UNITE has reported that it is aware of five other sites with “suspected” outbreaks, but did not identify the locations. It is entering tripartite talks with the Welsh Labour government and employers designed to stem growing social anger and provide a clean bill of health to the corporations, whose criminal negligence has compromised the safety of thousands of workers and those in local communities.

The flood of empty assurances coming from Public Health Wales and Public Health England is in inverse proportion to any measures to ensure further containment of the outbreak. The pandemic has been able to rage precisely because these agencies, along with the Health and Safety Executive, are beholden to the companies. On Apr 3, police were called to workers at Rowan Foods Limited, who had staged a walkout over the unsafe conditions in the factory. In response, Rowan Foods has cited PHW to claim that the outbreak of the virus did not originate in its factory. The three companies responsible for the industrial outbreak of COVID-19 dominate the food industry and are suppliers to leading supermarkets and fast food chains. The 2 Sisters Food Group is owned by Boporan Holdings and supplies a third of all poultry products consumed in the UK. Rowan Foods is owned by Oscar Meyer Quality Foods, a subsidiary of the Pindo trans-national, Kraft Heinz. Kober, which employs 500, is owned by supermarket chain Asda, for which it supplies bacon rashers and joints. Asda is the British subsidiary of the Pindo trans-national, Walmart.

The exploitative and dangerous conditions in these workplaces are the basis on which the wealth of their billionaire owners has been coined. It provides a devastating indictment of the government, which designated these industries as essential. They have operated throughout the pandemic under minimal safety regulations. Low pay and recourse only to Statutory Sick Pay paid at £95.85 per week have magnified the risk of the virus spreading, as workers cannot afford to go sick. Along with other unions, UNITE has been responsible for policing these conditions. Since the outbreak began, the overarching aim of UNITE has been damage limitation to safeguard its collaboration with the Johnson government’s premature return to work. Last Friday, UNITE called for a crisis meeting with the Welsh government and employers over the outbreak. Labour’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, has taken up the offer and is due to meet with employers and unions this week. This is under conditions in which a third meat processing plant in Wales, at Merthyr Tydfill, has seen an increase in infections. The Kepak meat plant had 34 cases linked to the site since April and 8 new cases in June. In a press briefing, Gething described food producers as being “generally good” at following COVID-19 workplace regulations and said that there are very good examples of this around Wales. he added:

We also know that the meat processing sector, operating margins can be very tight, many people are employed on fairly low pay and levels of statutory sick pay mean many people feel they have no choice but to carry on working when they are ill.

The Labour minister described the profit margins of some of the wealthiest corporations as “tight.” On Tuesday, he stated that there was no evidence of a wider community transmission and did not see the need for local lockdown measures. The Labour Party in West Yorkshire was involved in a cover-up in relation to the outbreak at the local Asda meat processing factory. In a spat with Tory Health Minister Matt Hancock, local Labour MP Tracy Brabin said his revealing the outbreak was like being “thrown to the wolves.” She claimed:

No-one in Kirklees should be concerned. Having spoken to the council they’ve acted very swiftly, I’m proud of them but I’m really frustrated Matt Hancock took it on himself to announce it like that.

Labour-run Kirklees Council admitted:

(We didn’t notify the public) because it doesn’t combat the spread of the virus, compromises patient confidentiality and it could discourage businesses and organisations from coming forward in future.

The cover-up by the Labour Party and unions extends back to April with the outbreak at the Cranswick Convenience Foods meat slicing factory in Wombwell, Barnsley that claimed the lives of three workers, with nine confirmed cases. The employer, local Labour authority and the GMB union contrived to ensure that even a 48-hour closure for a deep clean did not take place. This was publicly revealed only on Jun 22, in an article in the Yorkshire Examiner, when local Labour MPs noted that the HSE had failed to conduct a site inspection. John Healey MP confirmed that the HSE had only contacted the company via e-mail and accepted its assurances that measures had been put in place, asking:

If they didn’t do a site visit when three people died, what would it take?

But this admission was only made following e-mails sent to Labour MPs including Healey by Leander Lupton, the partner of 55-year-old Dave Baxter, a Cranswick employee, who died of the virus on Apr 19. Ms Lupton told the newspaper:

They have put measures in place only since there have been deaths and hospital admissions. People don’t speak up because they’re scared for their jobs.

Meat processing factories across the world have become a breeding ground for the virus and working in them a potential death sentence for workers in the US, Brazil, France, and Germany. They have become major hotspots because workers are crammed in on assembly lines working up to 12 hours a day with line speeds and air conditioning systems, in which air is constantly cooled and circulated, determined by corporate interests, not workers’ safety. UNITE’s collaboration with the corporations and the Johnson government is based on supporting the “national interest.” This makes future employment and terms and conditions conditional on the increased drive for profitability and competitiveness. The unions use any minor concession from the companies to justify their slavish support for corporate interests over workers’ rights. UNITE was full of praise for 2 Sisters Food Group because it agreed to full pay for workers at its Llangefni factory during the two weeks of self-isolation. The COVID-19 outbreak in the meat processing factories underscores the need for independent rank-and-file committees linking the fight for workplace safety with a broader restructuring of the economy, to end the stranglehold exerted by the corporate and financial elite over every aspect of life, including the right to life itself.

London bus drivers’ lives threatened by union collusion on inadequate COVID-19 measures
Laura Tiernan, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has proposed a memorial to 44 London transport workers who died from COVID-19 as a direct result of his government’s criminal policies. He did so amid a back-to-work drive that threatens the lives of countless bus and transport workers, who are being denied basic safety protections. Shapps’ proposal followed Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday halving two-metre social distancing. Shapps led efforts to scrap the two-metre rule after intense lobbying from transport companies. The reduction will take effect from Jul 4, with Transport for London (TfL) confirming it is now “working with Government to understand the guidance around the safe implementation of these changes.” Scientists have responded with alarm. Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warned yesterday:

Relaxing the 2 m rule at the same time as opening bars and restaurants does run the risk of allowing the epidemic to start to regain a foothold. These changes will have to be very carefully monitored and the NHS track-and-trace system will have to be working properly to help keep us safe.

But the government’s track-and-trace system is barely functional, with the WHO warning last week that lockdown measures in the UK should not be eased until an effective contact tracing system is in place. Under these conditions, the UNITE union is playing a crucial role for the government and TfL in policing the back-to-work drive and concealing the immense dangers facing bus and transport workers. New safety protections announced last month by TfL and Unite, including screens around bus drivers’ cabins, a limit on the number of passengers and compulsory wearing of facemasks, were used to justify a resumption of full service across the bus network.

The new measures, however, are inadequate. Images posted on social media show cabin safety screens melted by summer heat, with gaping holes and dangling flaps of loose plastic. Other photos show unsealed spaces surrounding Oyster ticket machines and along ceilings, leaving drivers exposed to aerosol droplets circulating throughout the bus. On May 29, Unite gave its “qualified support” to the resumption of front door fare payment. It claimed new cabin screens designed by University College London would “significantly reduce” risks to drivers from COVID-19. A virtually identical statement was issued by TfL the same day, citing “collaborative work with UNITE and bus operators.” TfL has refused to provide scientific evidence to back up these claims. Last Thursday, after the WSWS requested more information about the screens and access to someone who worked on the project, TfL replied:

Those working on the assessment of the screens wouldn’t do interviews, as they are not media spokespeople.

WSWS asked TfL for copies of the scientific advice UCL provided on the efficacy of the safety screens, whether epidemiologists and public health officials were consulted as part of the design process, and if so, what was their input. More than one week later, TfL has refused to answer these questions, asserting:

We have followed the science and applied the findings as quickly as possible (in discussion with both the bus operators and UNITE) to ensure the safety of our colleagues on the front line.

The Johnson government handed nearly £400m in coronavirus subsidies to bus companies in April, and a £1.6b bailout to TfL. Yet no additional staff have been hired to ensure adherence to social distancing. Instead, overworked, stressed and fatigued drivers have been left to enforce new laws on passenger facemasks along with TfL’s passenger limits, an impossible task. A driver told WSWS said:

It is clear the policy has been put out with no concern of how to implement it. How do you manage large numbers of people getting on and off, keeping a tally of those on board, while safely driving a bus?

Perhaps the clearest public indication of UNITE’s collusion with TfL and bus operators is the advice it has issued on face masks. In April, the union issued a joint letter with TfL and the bus companies telling workers they should not wear face masks as these were “not recommended” by Public Health England. This was the same line being spouted by Labour Party London Mayor Sadiq Khan in media interviews, fuelling outrage among drivers. After new laws made face-masks mandatory on public transport, UNITE responded by rewriting history, issuing a statement saying:

UNITE has proclaimed victory for bus drivers and the travelling public after the government announced on Thursday that all people traveling on public transport in England will be required to wear face coverings from Jun 15.

UNITE claimed they had been “actively lobbying the government to introduce the measure,” omitting any reference to their earlier advice. Bobby Morton, UNITE’s national officer for passenger transport, nevertheless “highlighted” what he claimed was a “lack of clear-cut scientific evidence showing face coverings categorically protect people from the virus,” concluding that “any protective effect, however small, was better than none” and that facemasks would at least support “bus workers’ mental health.” Last week, UNITE issued a follow-up “ruling on facemasks,” sowing further confusion and complacency:

Your union has always stated its firm belief that, although face coverings would not offer a great deal of protection to the wearer, it would reduce the risk of passengers passing on the virus to others and potentially infecting drivers. It is important to understand that this is not to protect the wearer from catching the virus, it is to reduce the risk of the wearer contaminating other people and if all passengers are wearing face coverings the risk of the virus being transmitted is greatly reduced. Face coverings for London bus drivers will remain optional. You choose if you want to wear a face covering.

Drivers report that many of their colleagues are declining to wear face masks for a variety of reasons. One driver explained:

Having a face mask on creates a foggy mist on my glasses. Additionally, it tends to worsen my hay fever symptoms and after a prolonged time of wearing it I have problems with my eyes and skin around my face. My GP said that this might be the effects of the mask collecting dust and pollen and keeping it close to my face.

A colleague concurred, saying:

The face masks provided by the companies are not adequate for driving.

Other drivers have pointed to the new cabin screens believing they provide adequate protection, a worrying conclusion in light of TfL’s refusal to publish scientific evidence that they work. Another driver said of the problem:

Facemasks are an important safety measure, but I find it difficult to wear. What is needed is a high-quality, high-spec mask with our traffic conditions in mind. This would show that safety is a priority for drivers, but that costs and the companies won’t pay. We are also told ‘do not engage’ with passengers who refuse to wear masks. When the bus is full, I’ll change the sign on the front of the bus and skip the next stop, but if someone presses the button you’ve got no choice with people running to get on board. It’s why we need conductors. Those roles should never have been eliminated, and the union did nothing to fight it.

Workers must reject claims by the Johnson government, the unions and TfL that there is no money for state-of-the-art safety. Last year, the combined profits of the major London bus operators, including Abellio, GoAhead, Arriva and ComfortDelGro, ran to billions of pounds. These global conglomerates exploit millions of workers across Europe, Pindostan, Latin America and Asia, who face the same threat from a pandemic that is exposing the brutal class reality and failure of capitalism.

New COVID-19 outbreaks in Germany and Berlin’s inhumane quarantine conditions
Lisa Lachlan, WSWS, Jun 25 2020

When the interests of big business are at stake, all safety precautions are thrown overboard as millions of workers are forced back to work under precarious conditions. If these workers then become infected, they are kept in their cramped apartments, sometimes using brutal methods. Even the most elementary assistance is denied them. This is particularly evident in the Berlin district of Neukölln, where the largest proportion of poor households in the capital is concentrated. On Jun 5, two pupils from different schools in the borough tested positive for the coronavirus. Since Jun 13, 369 households, each containing one to 10 people, have been quarantined. A total of seven locations in the district are affected. On Friday, it was learned that 94 persons had a positive result out of some 586 tests carried out. The number is expected to rise even further in the next few days, as the testing of all households has not yet been completed. Of the persons who tested positive, 41 or about half are children under 18 years of age, some of whom are subject to compulsory schooling. In this context, eight schools are known to have individuals who tested positive. Currently, 25 members of the pandemic staff are busy tracing the chains of infection, and five military personnel are involved in maintaining the lists and telephone service, according to Neukölln city councillor Falko Liecke (CDU). Nevertheless, the origin of the transmission into the blocks of flats has not yet been clearly determined. There are, however, indications that the outbreak was connected with the Christian community, to which several of the positively tested persons belonged. They had participated in a Pentecostal service.

The rapid and concentrated outbreak of COVID-19 in precisely these blocks of flats, however, can only rationally be explained by the cramped and poor housing conditions in which the residents have to live. A large proportion of the inhabitants are newly arrived immigrants and families from poor EU member states. With an average size of 70 sq m, they are forced to live crowded together in households of up to 10 people. Just as in the meat industry, in refugee accommodation and in shelters for the homeless, such circumstances provide the virus with the best chance of spreading quickly and effectively among residents and forming a hotspot. The quarantine ordered by the district authorities for the 369 households in 13 housing blocks forces residents to remain packed together for two weeks in apartments where many children live. Under such circumstances, it is highly likely that entire households will become infected, as distancing rules cannot be observed in overcrowded rooms. But neither the district, the state of Berlin nor the German federal government has done anything to at least make the quarantine humane and safe, for example by renting hotel rooms. Not even the supply of food is guaranteed. The district mayor had initially announced that the supply of basic foodstuffs would be safeguarded. However, this was not distributed among the households until the fourth day after the imposed curfew, in the form of 75 boxes. Some residents told the Nordkurier on June 18 that the authorities had not taken care of their needs. In the first few days, they had been supplied with “food and drink” mainly by friends and the neighbouring school. Only a few residents could afford the additional costs of a delivery from the supermarket. Furthermore, one resident told the newspaper that the food supplies in his household, in which nine people lived, had already been used up after two days.

The concentrated COVID-19 outbreak in Berlin Neukölln shows very clearly that people who have to live in impoverished conditions are particularly at risk of contracting the virus. While the residents affected are locked up in cramped conditions, the eight schools where pupils have tested positive for the virus remain open until the holidays. According to councillor Liecke, it is sufficient to quarantine the affected learning groups from the schools where the infections first appeared. While the district authorities are not doing anything to improve living conditions for those in quarantine, the affected students are being threatened with severe repression, as in other places. Thus, the district is legally authorized to use the police against repeated quarantine breakers. In several refugee accommodations in Baden-Württemberg this is already being practised by the police and military. In Göttingen, too, police are being deployed to monitor the quarantine of about 700 people in a high-rise complex. The building was quarantined last week and largely cordoned off by the police. On Friday, 120 positive cases were reported, but testing has not yet been completed. People in this building also live in extremely precarious housing conditions. In the entire block, the apartments are between 19 and 37 sq m in size. Many of the apartments are occupied by families with several children. According to the city, a total of around 200 minors live there in insecure conditions. On Saturday, when 200 residents tried to oppose the curfew, as such quarantine conditions are unacceptable for those affected, the police acted against them using 300 officers. According to the police, this led to an arrest and arguments between cops and residents.

It is becoming increasingly clear who has to pay the price for the policy of reopening business, which is being pushed forward by all the establishment parties: the poorest all over the world. They are hit hardest by the virus and the quarantine conditions. As the WSWS recently reported, there is a direct link between low income, an increased risk of illness and a severe course of the disease, which is 87% higher for welfare recipients than for those receiving regular unemployment benefits. It is therefore not surprising that the district of Neukölln, in particular, has the second highest number of COVID-19 sufferers in Berlin, with around 957 cases. According to the 2019 Social Report of Berlin-Brandenburg, which refers to figures from 2018, Neukölln has the highest proportion of inhabitants at risk of poverty, at 27.4%. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the figures will be even higher in 2020.

3 Comments

  1. avram
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    add to that the [original] snake, and the imagination. now the imagination allows a lot of speculation because we also use it we think in images. satan is the ‘peddler of images’ and the father of advertising. like the myth of Tantalus-he just can’t get that fruit/ water.
    like modern advertisements which make you ‘imagine’ if you buy their product your life will become complete-but then pops up another image and you are incomplete.
    there is an interesting commentary on the Guide of the Perplexed by one R. Narboni. Maimonides says that ‘prima material is like a prostitute putting on one garment and then taking it off [obviously the Johns/Moshes her clients] Narboni makes a very interesting comment “that hiatus between taking off one form and putting on another is the absence of form[העדר הצורה] and that is the satan.”
    maybe this can sweeten you soteriological quagmire.

    yours
    in ontological bitterness

  2. niqnaq
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I’m waiting impatiently for a book I ordered from Rough Trade, by Brix Smith Start, of Brix & The Extricated, called “Babble-On.” Every copy is signed by hand, “Brix XXX”

  3. niqnaq
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    The book arrived:-)

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