Peak Covid deaths: The Spanish government reported on February 1st 408 Covid deaths, a number not seen since March of last year. In France there were 357. The UK broke the record for the year with 1,121 deaths. In Argentina 240. And in the USA the average number of deaths continues to hover around 2,500 per day. And yet, the worldwide news is the end of the Covid restrictions following Denmark and Norway's examples, where, by the way, cases are multiplying.
The triumph of the do-nothing strategy
The new peak in Covid deaths has not yet reached its maximum. Nothing in this graph would say that we are nearing the end of the pandemic.
By making the number of deaths invisible, the official version is that in Denmark "the omicron variant is no longer considered a threat". Why? Because there is a high level of vaccination reducing the percentage of hospitalized and dead people out of the total number of infected people.
The issue is however, when the number of cases multiplies because of the removal of the few remaining restrictions, even if the ratio is lower, the total number of dead and hospitalized may well remain the same or even increase. Especially if, as in France, the new school rules mean that a href="https://www.liberation.fr/societe/sante/en-direct-covid-19-retrouvez-les-dernieres-informations-liees-a-la-crise-sanitaire-20220128\_YEOJVUWDYRAA5BH4OR2CEBJK2U/">half a million children have become infected in a single week of school, bringing the disease to parents and grandparents. That's the problem with the do-nothing strategy. And this is what is actually happening.
Read also: : Omicron, the "strategy" of doing nothing and its 3 problems, 9/1/2022
But this isn't just Denmark or Norway eliminating restrictions. Spain today is a party: restrictions on nightlife, the requirement of vaccination certificates in the hospitality industry, restrictions on capacity ... have ended. On February 1st, the majority of the Parliament made it clear that it wants to eliminate the use of masks in public spaces despite the fact that the decree requiring the use of masks was renewed in extremis thanks to a parliamentary ruse.
In Israel, the requirement of a Covid passport for almost all leisure activities will be eliminated. In the USA, the figures keep on reporting overcrowded hospitals, but most of the states are talking about restoring a "sense of normality" and learning to "live with the virus".
The government's fake news about Omicron also kill
Field hospital during the "Spanish flu" epidemic. What we learned from that pandemic is, among other things, that the new variants need not be less serious and that the series that matters is the number of deaths and people with persistent sequelae.
The media are hammering on the idea that Omicron would be the "end of the pandemic" and that from now on the new variants will be less severe and will result in less mortality (which are completely different things, as seen above). And governments cling argumentatively to this idea, which is but a fleeting hope among many possibilities.
Because, as epidemiologists remind us from the experience of past pandemics, this is not necessarily the case. On the contrary, leaving the field open to mass transmission means multiplying the possibility of variants... which need not necessarily be less serious.
Mutations are random. The only certainty is that future variants, if successful, will evade immune protection. They could become more dangerous.
The WHO just last week was calling for "caution" after noting an increase in deaths globally over the previous week. Omicron is not yet at its peak, vaccination remains glaringly unequal: only 5% of people in low-income countries are vaccinated. And, everywhere, as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out, "more infections mean more deaths".
"More infections inevitably mean more deaths", so he urged not to fall for the narrative that vaccination combined with a less severe variant (omicron) makes preventive measures, such as the use of masks or quarantine of contacts of confirmed cases, unnecessary,
The value of life and death for capital
The reopening of nightlife will increase contagions but... contributes to the economic goals and to the "sense of normality" pursued by capital and the state.
408 dead on February 1st in Spain. 10 times the deaths caused by "gender-based violence" last year and 2 times the biggest terrorist attack in local history. Over 2500 deaths per day in the USA, a little less than the total deaths of 9/11. And yet, both do not deserve headlines today, not even brief statements from governments or opposition parties. Nothing is happening here, move along!
What at the beginning of the pandemic was implicit and was then presented as a false "balance" between the death of workers and that of "businesses" has now become explicit and blatant. The slogan "do not slow down the economy", that is, accumulation, is the response of governments such as the Spanish one to the -modest- proposals for restrictions by their own experts.
The message is clear: lives are only worth as long as they do not hinder economic goals. Bad luck for the unvaccinated, the immunocompromised, the elderly, diabetics or asthmatics, people who are notoriously unsympathetic to the supreme national objectives of growth. Bad luck for the tens of thousands of children who, infected this fall, will suffer persistent Covid. Bad luck for all the workers who will be infected in public transportation or in the workplace by asymptomatic colleagues who will not get sick leave and will infect others.
They will join the many invisible victims of the subordination of life to the profits and results of capital. An operating cost of keeping the ailing machinery of exploitation running. Expression of the antagonism that defines our era in all its dimensions: growth (of capital) versus (human) development.