Forty years on from New Cross, the need to build a mass anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement is still paramount. No justice, no peace!
In our article Against eugenics, we showed that the British government has, with the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, sanctioned the deaths of thousands of disabled and elderly people living in care homes and with long term health conditions and those people who are imprisoned, either because they are migrants or otherwise.
The extent of the governments’ planning, of the pre-meditated and deliberate nature of their actions has become more apparent in recent weeks. The government’s denial that there was any pressure for care homes to accept coronavirus patients (who, before the middle of April, were not routinely tested for coronavirus before being discharged to a home) looks more unbelievable when it was discovered that NHS clinical commissioning groups and councils in 17 regions of England reserved a total of 1800 beds in care homes at the start of the pandemic. The need for these beds is clear. NHS England wished to ensure that they could move patients into care homes at short notice, presumably to make room for new patients in their hospitals. While this planning for future demand on resource may be sensible, accompanied by the guidance provided by the government on the “Admission and Care of Patients during COVID-19 Incident in a Care Home”, this is state-sanctioned murder. This guidance, published on 2 April 2020, states,
"As part of the national effort, the care sector also plays a vital role in accepting patients as they are discharged from hospital – both because recuperation is better in non-acute settings, and because hospitals need to have enough beds to treat acutely sick patients. Residents may also be admitted to a care home from a home setting. Some of these patients may have COVID-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic."
While the government, in additional guidance published on 16 April 2020, said that patients would not be discharged without a coronavirus test (although we should note that there is no need for the result of that test to be known), there is no provision for care homes to refuse to admit a patient. This could well happen, for example if they feel they have inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) or would be putting the other residents or staff at risk. This is despite acknowledging several times in the “action plan for adult social care” that care homes have experienced trouble accessing PPE, that they are “concerned about being able to effectively isolate COVID-positive residents”.
It cannot be stressed enough that care homes are not primarily a repository for hospital overflow, although they may be used as such. They are places where people live. And those people, deemed expendable by capital, deserve to live their lives free from state-imposed infection risk.
What is particularly egregious about this situation is that the government were warned. On 28 April 2020, a “further lockdown of care homes” was proposed by Public Health England. While we may not agree with all the methods suggested in the 11-point plan (it is not reasonable to ask staff to move into their place of work for four weeks without paying them for all 24 hours in the day), the substance of the report is such that the government knew, over a month ago, that the practices currently in place at care homes (insufficient PPE, staff rotating between homes, the design for socialisation not isolation) were likely to lead to huge rates of infection and death in care home settings.
Indeed, there have been over 27000 excess deaths in care home settings during the pandemic. That is an unconscionably large number and each one is the result of, as we said in Against Eugenics, the British government’s ability to wield an invisible weapon (the virus), by bureaucratically weaponising these systems of oppressive dependency in a move towards ever increasing productivity and standardisation. Capitalism demands a standard body, one that is productive, one that is not old or disabled. Anyone who is not productive, anyone who relies on the state for their living is therefore, expendable, a truth which has been exposed and demonstrated by the government’s approach to care homes and prisons during the pandemic.
Surely, we would think, this excess death would be reported and commented on by the media and the public at large? No, we were distracted by the saga of Dominic Cummings and his trips to Durham. While his actions are part of the same story, the timing of focus on them is a detraction from the important issues at hand. Whether Cummings resigns or not, we will still have inadequate PPE, excess deaths of 60,000, the highest death rate in the world, no functioning test and trace system and a government who deliberated decided to funnel coronavirus in to care homes and prisons letting residents and staff suffer.
As we did before, Red Fightback calls upon all revolutionary and progressive organisations and individuals to resist this. We call upon care home workers to protect those they can to the best of their ability and to expose the realities of what is today in motion, for mutual aid groups to mobilise now to provide protective equipment to these staff, and for all left groups to mount an immediate propaganda campaign to consolidate a meaningful resistance.