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Lessons from Covid-19

Covid-19 has strengthened community links and brought neighbours together. Lonely people have felt themselves cherished and protected as never before.

We need not return to "normal".
  • We want to smell clean air instead of choking on car fumes.
  • We want to hear the birds singing instead of roaring engines.
  • We want more cycle lanes and pedestrianised areas.
  • We want more bike parks instead of car parks.
  • We want to enjoy the blessing of sunlight outdoors (vitamin D) on our skin, to protect us from Covid-19, and also from hypertension, diabetes and obesity, (but don't overdo the ultraviolet light).
In the post-Covid future we will remember what Covid has taught us.
We will end the coronavirus crisis only if we work together to end it everywhere. National borders provide no protection against the spread of the pandemic.

Brexit is irrelevant! "Everything is connected!" Ventilators, masks and other protection should go wherever in the world they are most needed.

The UK should therefore be leading a coordinated response to strengthen the UN World Health Organisation, from which President Trump has withdrawn support.
The Covid-19 shutdown led to a fall in atmospheric pollution, with benefits to the climate, to human health and wellbeing, to wild life and to crops. This was due to a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels for industry and for transport including aviation. (Greenhouse gases fell too, but not in the same proportion).

There is some evidence that air pollution, by attacking our lungs, may make us more sensitive to Covid-19.

In the years to come, we will learn to do without Continental holidays and Transatlantic business flights, and to work more from home.
Covid-19 and the shutdown seriously weakened the oil industry, aviation and private transport. These are all industries we need to curb to control CO2 and atmospheric pollution. In addition, aviation contributed to the global spread of the pandemic.

Can we stop the government from "rescuing" those industries?

We each need to question our own use of fossil fuels.
After the aviation industry, the fashion industry is said to be the largest industrial polluter in the world, responsible for 10 per cent of all global pollution - contamination by chemicals and plastics, greenhouse gases and non-recyclable fibres.

A major culprit is "fast fashion" - selling large volumes of cheap, mass-produced, disposable garments, frequently made from artificial fibres; often unsold or returned stock is sent to landfill or simply incinerated. Much of the environmental impact is felt in the Global South, where the clothes are produced, sometimes by child labour or prison labour.

Are we choosing to use organic and Fair Trade materials, and second-hand clothing?
Who profits from Covid-19?

Beneficiaries include Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Zoom and the multinational pharmaceutical conglomerates.

We must ensure that multinational companies pay their fair share of taxes in the countries where they operate, not just in tax havens.
When we destroy natural habitats and exterminate wild animals the native germs are liable to cross the species barrier. The Covid-19 pandemic is widely believed to have originated in animals. The present outbreak has been traced to wildlife markets in China, but the danger of zoonotic transmission is now inherent in all forms of livestock farming.

The global food system is also said to generate up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions,

What do the combined imperatives of Covid-19 and the climate crisis mean for the future of agriculture, and for our own patterns of consumption?
Should we be eating less meat?
In determining when it is safe to ease the lockdown, the government claims (questionably?) to be "science-led".

But when Greta Thunberg says "Trust the Science", she is ignored.

Greta speaks for us too - "How dare you!"
In March the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged all nations to accept a ceasefire in support of the bigger battle against the common enemy of Covid-19. Consequently the Saudi-led coalition unilaterally declared a temporary ceasefire In Yemen.

However the UN Security Council failed to endorse Guterres' initiative, apparently because President Trump blames the UN World Health Organisation for his own mishandling of the Covid crisis.

We pledge our support for Antonio Guterres.
Covid-19 has spread most rapidly among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens in the UK - elderly people, care homes, ethnic minorities, victims of "austerity", prisoners, and slum-dwellers in overcrowded homes. Vulnerable people have become even more vulnerable.

Job losses are greatest among women and also among younger and low-paid people; these tend to work in pubs, restaurants and shops most affected by the lockdown.

We are challenged and shamed.
Covid-19 is especially challenging in Africa and the Middle East, where health services have limited facilities for intensive care, and are already coping with Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and the threat of famine. Here again lockdowns hit the poorest hardest.

As developing countries observe rich countries setting aside fiscal constraints when people in the Global North are threatened by the virus, there will be pressure to rethink the whole system of international debt.

Covid-19 forces us to recognise our own responsibilities and privileges.
A new vaccine seems the likeliest way to end the pandemic. Large commercial pharmaceutical companies face an inherent commercial conflict between treatment and prevention. A cure may take years of research, by which time the emergency may be over, and with it the demand for the new vaccine.

But vaccines and medicines are not just luxuries which consumers can do without if the price is over the top. They can make all the difference between health and illness - even between life and death. They should not be rationed by price.
This means that research for a Covid-19 vaccine will inevitably be funded by public money, from Government and charities.

We should insist that all Covid-19 research funding by UK taxpayers is subject to two conditions - Most of UK public funding towards a Covid-19 vaccine is channeled through the global vaccine development programme, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). As a public funder and board member, the UK government should support CEPI's efforts to ensure fair and affordable access to the vaccine globally.

We must all accept our responsibilities as Citizens of the World.
"Key workers" are now NHS employees, bus drivers, dustbin men, supermarket cashiers, mostly underpaid underdogs; not Right Honourables, not Captains of Industry, not financial wizards, not Your Holiness, not media celebtities, not bemedalled Generals.

Another world is possible: we have glimpsed it!
Now that rough sleepers are seen as possible sources of infection, accommodation has been found for them in hotels.

Why did we allow ourselves to believe that "the homelessness problem" would take years to solve?
As soon as they identified the need for ventilators, governments placed the necessary orders, and industry responded without delay. Arms companies were among the first to respond.

Can pundits continue to argue that the arms industry is incapable of redeploying to civilian production without creating unemployment?

Public will and government initiative are all that is needed.
Cruise ships, where social separation is difficult, are especially liable to the spread of corona virus. Warships at sea, with shared accommodation, are even more problematic.

Trident submarines could be death traps.

Is the British nuclear deterrent still credible?
See the UN Report on Covid-19 and human rights. Various parts of the world have had different experiences of the corona virus -
  • "Neo-liberal" populist leaders, including Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Benjamin Netanyahu and Rodrigo Duterte, were slow to react to the pandemic, undermining their credibility.
  • Security-minded democracies such as the United States, Israel, Hungary, Turkey and Poland, took the occasion to suspend civil liberties. Press freedom has been under attack in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India and Iran. The Russian government has been accused of deliberately spreading disinformation.
  • Liberal democracies, Sweden, Holland, Germany and New Zealand, relied mainly on trusting their governments and their fellow-citizens to act responsibly.
We must be watchful.
Charles Eisenstein has listed some possible creeping threats to our civil liberties, in the name of defence against Covid-19:
  • Tracking people's movements
  • Suspending freedom of assembly
  • Military policing of citizens
  • Extrajudicial, indefinite detention/quarantine
  • Banning physical cash
  • Censorship of the internet
  • Compulsory vaccination and other medical treatment, establishing the state's sovereignty over our bodies
  • Classification of all activities and destinations into the expressly permitted and the expressly forbidden (you can leave your house for this, but not that). This is the very essence of totalitarianism.
Some aspects of the UK lockdown and vaccination policy have been debatable. They have been criticised by some disability rights advocates, by the traveller community, by some libertarians and by some peace campaigners.

We must remain vigilant.
At government level Covid-19 has produced world-wide emergency action.

This must never allow us to overlook the potentially greater threats of the climate crisis and nuclear war.

Share the International Peace Bureau petition To Invest in Health Care instead of Militarization.

Remember the lessons of Covid-19. No turning back!