nazi britain sort of unlocks the lockdown

UK Labour Party backs Johnson government ending lockdown in “national interest”
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Dec 1 2020

On the day when the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed 75k, Parliament voted to end the national lockdown that had been in place for just four weeks. In its place will be the three-tier system, whose limited restrictions will be made all but redundant due to the government allowing the reopening of the economy, the movement of tens of millions nationwide during the festive season and allowing Christmas family gatherings for five days. While the partial national lockdown managed to cut infections in the UK by a third, they remain very high at over 13,430 yesterday, an increase of over 2k on the same day last week. An increase from 60k deaths to 75k, according to whether COVID appears on the death certificate, took place during the period of the lockdown. Lifting the lockdown’s limited restrictions, as workplaces, schools and universities remain open, must see an exponential increase in fatalities.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 was passed with the support of 291 Conservative MPs and comes into effect today. Expressing the insistence of big business that restrictions on making profits must end, Johnson suffered the largest rebellion of Tory MPs since the general election, with 55 voting against the Tier system out of a total of 78 MPs in opposition. Another 16 Tories did not vote. This was despite a series of concessions Johnson made in recent days to limit a rebellion. Among the Tories opposed were senior figures including Sir Graham Brady, Greg Clark, David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood, and Tom Tugenhadt. Also voting against were 15 Labour MPs, 8 DUP MPs and 2 Independents, one of whom was Jeremy Corbyn, who has had the Labour whip removed by Starmer as part of the witch-hunt of the party’s left in the anti-Semitism campaign. The Labourites voting against Johnson did so citing complaints that constituencies in the north of England were being treated unfairly, with businesses suffering and requiring more bailouts, due to being put into the highest Tier Three. They sided with several local Labour councils who are in alliance with northern based Tory MPs, including Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.

Johnson was ultimately able to win the vote by a large majority thanks to most of Labour’s 200 MPs abstaining, with Starmer abiding by his cynical pledge to only “constructive” opposition to the government. The Tier system will be reintroduced with some modifications from its previous incarnation. All non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and other personal care businesses in England will be allowed to reopen, along with places of worship. Pubs and restaurants are to be fully closed under Tier 3 restrictions and can only open fully in Tier 2 areas if they serve “substantial meals,” which could be a scotch egg. The so-called “rule of six” will be reinstated, allowing up to six people from different households to meet indoors or outdoors in Tier 1 areas, only outdoors in Tiers 2, and in limited outdoor settings in Tier 3. Even these limited restrictions will be scrapped for a period over Christmas, with up to three households able to meet up during five days, from Dec 23-27. This was agreed between Johnson and the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In a decision catastrophic to public health, the government is allowing all shops to open 24 hours a day through December and January. The profit lust of the ruling elite means that nothing is being overlooked to wring every last penny out of the population in the run up to Christmas. This week the Acardia group retail chain went into administration threatening 13k jobs and was followed within hours with the collapse of the Debenhams chain store into administration, with a further 12k jobs at stake. Without missing a beat it was announced Tuesday that Debenhams will be open today in what has been dubbed “Wild Wednesday” in a bid to sell off all remaining stock at its 124 shops. Areas of the country in Tier 2 will be allowed to have fans back in football stadiums for the first time in nine months, with Arsenal the first Premier League club to host home supporters for their Europa League tie with Rapid Vienna Thursday. Ten Premier League clubs are located in Tier 2 areas and will be able to allow 2k fans to watch their games from today. In the debate Johnson said the lockdown was ending, even as he admitted:

The latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest that, out of every 85 people in England, one has coronavirus, far more than in the summer. Between Nov 24 and yesterday, 3,222 people across the UK lost their lives.

He then reassured business and his rebels:

What we are proposing is not another lockdown, nor is this the renewal of existing measures in England. The tiers that I am proposing would mean that from tomorrow, everyone in England, including those in tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason. When they do, they will find the shops open for Christmas, the hairdressers open, the nail bars open, and gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools open. I am not seeking open-ended measures. On the contrary, the regulations come with a sunset clause at the end of Feb 2. They can be extended beyond Feb 2 only if this House votes for them. The review of the tier system on Dec 16 will be more granular, with an aim of allowing some areas to move to an even less restrictive tiers. We will try to be as sensitive as possible to local effort and to local achievement in bringing the pandemic under control.

The Daily Mail reported:

Whips have been assuring Conservatives with constituencies in high tiers that they will be downgraded within weeks, while London Tories are pushing for a pledge that the city will not be upgraded to Tier 3.

Starmer responded:

Labour has supported the government in two national lockdowns. We recognise the need for continued restrictions, but it is not in the national interest to vote these restrictions down today, and we will allow them to pass.

Tory MP Jeremy Wright summed up the position of the anti-lockdown, anti-tier Covid Recovery Group rebels, stating:

These new measures will be profoundly damaging to hospitality businesses in particular, which will be obliged to close during the most lucrative part of the year. A decision to relax restrictions at a review on Dec 16 would take effect only from Dec 19, meaning that most, if not all, of the crucial pre-Christmas season would be lost in an area where the visitor economy is crucial.

The Johnson government was the first to declare openly in favour of a herd immunity policy, before growing public opposition and a series of strikes by workers forced it into a national lockdown. But this has continued to be its undeclared policy throughout. It ended the initial lockdown within three months, with all schools, colleges and universities opened by September, vastly increasing the spread of the deadly disease. Speaking about the number of deaths of elderly people of coronavirus, and whether the government could “protect every old person,” Tory MP Sir Charles Walker felt able to state openly:

No government can abolish death, it is impossible. 615k people die every year in this country, and not every death is a tragedy. Please can we change the narrative when we talk about death? Not all deaths are equal. There is the same outcome, but to compare the death of someone of 90 with the death of someone of 19 is not right.

The UK’s relaxing of the coronavirus lockdown at Christmas is simply a way to impose even tougher rules in the new year
Kit Klarenberg,, Dec 1 2020

On Nov 24, the UK government announced plans to relax coronavirus restrictions significantly between December 23 and 27, with up to three households permitted to mix in a combined ‘bubble,’ allowing families to reunite over the holiday period. While warmly received in some quarters, the proposals sparked outcry among some in the scientific community. On Nov 28, former chief scientific adviser ‘Sir’ David King suggested families needed to isolate for at least 10 days before Christmas if they wished to celebrate the occasion with elderly relatives, due to alarming infection rates among children. King said:

You need to be exceptionally careful in a multi-generational situation, indoors at home, celebrating with a glass of champagne or whatever else, as attractive as all of that is. It’s a very dangerous situation. There will be a price to pay for Christmas. We do all have to realise that we are putting members of our own family at risk in this process.

Many cases among younger people are asymptomatic, meaning the virus could be unwittingly transmitted to vulnerable individuals in an enclosed environment with ease. The prospect of transmission is likely to be amplified by the vast numbers travelling to other parts of the country to see relatives during the Christmas and New Year period. Recorded cases of coronavirus are falling in the UK, but infections are rising significantly among schoolchildren, with one in five (900k) not in class presently, as they either have the disease or are isolating with symptoms. That’s a 50-fold increase on September. One in 100 state schools are closed entirely, and 11 to 16-year-olds now have the highest levels of infection in England. Professor Gabriel Scally, former regional director of public health for South West England, has warned:

There’s no doubt Christmas will increase cases and result in deaths.

Given the grave risks involved in pausing lockdown at such a critical juncture and effectively encouraging the intimate mixing of at-risk individuals with undiagnosed coronavirus carriers and, in turn, raising the probability of a third lockdown, the government’s actions seem hare-brained and reckless. However, Whitehall’s potentially fatal irresponsibility is morbidly explicable given the findings of a report issued on Oct 29 by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza group on Behaviour (SPI-B), a behavioural scientist collective employed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, known as SAGE. Titled ‘SPI-B: Insights on Celebrations and Observances during COVID-19’, the paper noted:

Pandemic restrictions have already impacted celebrations and observances, including Good Friday, Easter, Eid ul Adha, Rosh Hashana and more. This will continue to be a challenge for many months. It is important to rethink the nature of celebration and observance during the pandemic. The behaviours that combine to form celebrations and observances hold emotional value and significance. An extension of existing social bubble rules is likely to create high legitimacy for government interventions as the government will be seen to care about what people most value during celebrations: their connection to friends and family.

In other words, Whitehall’s policy is designed to engender public trust in and sympathy for the government, humanising officials in the process. Such “high legitimacy for government interventions” will in turn surely soften the blow of a subsequent lockdown, which the relaxation of rules over Christmas will almost inevitably necessitate. The inherently manipulative nature of the expanded “bubble” rules was amply underlined by Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of SPI-B, in a Guardian op-ed published on Nov 30. If ministers simply issue edicts, they’ll be seen as out of touch with the realities of many people’s lives. Orders to ‘open your windows to stay safe’ will achieve little more than widening the perceived distance between politicians and the public. But if the government shows an understanding of the reality in which many live, and offers them support, that chasm can begin to be bridged.

A boost in public support would undoubtedly be most welcome to Downing Street at present. Trust in Prime Minister Boris Johnson has fallen from a high of 35% in April to just 26% as of Nov 30, and poll ratings for his administration have diminished precipitously in the same period. In April, the government enjoyed stratospheric leads of up to 21%, while today the Labour Party has comfortable leads, according to most polls. It may be significant that in the days after the Christmas relaxation was announced, the Times reported that the British Army had mobilised its elite defence cultural unit, part of its 77th Brigade psyops initiative, to counter ‘online propaganda’ relating to coronavirus. The unit was launched in Afghanistan in 2010 and merged into the 77th Brigade in 2015. Internal documents cited by the Times allegedly indicate its operatives are monitoring cyberspace for coronavirus-related content, and analysing “how messages flow around the world, who’s viewing messages, reacting and then spreading them to other people.” This is to be augmented by concurrent efforts from the Cabinet Office’s Rapid Response Unit, the Army, and UK signals intelligence agency GCHQ. While the Times quoted a Ministry of Defence spokesperson as saying these capabilities were “not directed at the UK population” and “77th Brigade do not, and have never, conducted any kind of action against British citizens,” previous disclosures cast doubt on these pronouncements.

At a Downing Street briefing in April, General ‘Sir’ Nick Carter, the UK’s most senior military officer, and secretly the former ‘Honorary Colonel Commandant’ of 77th Brigade, outlined the various ways in which the military was supporting the government, noting that the Brigade was “helping quash rumours from misinformation, but also counter disinformation.” There are strong indications this has comprised the dissemination of pro-government messages, and the discrediting of those critical of Whitehall’s handling of the pandemic. Downing Street’s lackadaisical approach has meant the country ranks seventh in the world in terms of cases (1,643,086) and fifth in terms of deaths (59,051). Such information-warfare capabilities may have been targeted internally in other insidious ways. In February, SPI-B issued a paper on how to increase public adherence to social distancing measures during the pandemic. One solution offered by the group was to increase the “perceived level of personal threat” among British citizens. The document stated:

A substantial number of people still don’t feel sufficiently personally threatened. The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.

It went on to recommend such messaging be circulated via “targeted media campaigns, social media, apps and websites,” precisely the realm of the shadowy 77th Brigade.

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