Coronavirus: How Did 8,900 Deaths Worldwide Lead to the Complete Shutdown of the Global Economy?

18.3.20

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I don’t mean to sound wilfully contrarian, but, as the UK enters a phase of coronavirus lockdown so surreal that it feels as though we’re all, almost overnight, living in an apocalyptic sci-fi movie, I have found myself struggling to cope with the imminent collapse of the entire global economy because of a virus that, to date, has killed less than 8,900 people worldwide [Note: as of 10am on March 21, the global death count was 11,554 people, and by 6pm on March 22 it had reached a total of 14,444. By 6pm on March 29, however, it had reached a total of 33,526, and, by the morning of April 3, the total had reached 53,458].

Don’t misunderstand me. I recognise that the coronavirus is infectious, and that in China, where it began, and in Italy, where it subsequently took a sudden hold, the local health services were overwhelmed with the scale of its spread. As a result, I understand why the notion of a total lockdown in response has seemed so necessary. And in the UK, responding to the initial response of the government of Boris Johnson, which was to let the virus spread freely, and to let us, the livestock, develop “herd immunity” or die, I wholeheartedly joined in the cries of outrage of those opposing such an invitation to rates of infection and death that would, it seemed clear from the examples of China and Italy, overwhelm our own health service.

And so, in response, as the notion that people should self-isolate — perhaps for a two-week period, perhaps for a month, or two at the most — took hold, I also remained supportive, but now, suddenly, as the reality of a lockdown becomes apparent, with the prospect of total economic collapse, and the unchecked rise of unprecedented authoritarian impulses on the part of governments, and with isolation now being portrayed as something that may need to be implemented for a much longer period, I suddenly find myself in revolt.

Before delineating the contours of my revolt, let me first state that I wish to protect the most vulnerable people in society: those who are old, and/or with pre-existing health conditions, and those on the front line, in the health service, who are dealing with the virus’s victims. The latter are clearly not being protected adequately by the British government, while, for the former, the notion of self-isolation seems to make sense, but only if the government commits resources to widespread testing for the virus, so that those interacting with the elderly and the vulnerable — as will need to happen if any plan involving isolation is to work — can do so safely.

Outside of the elderly and the vulnerable, however, I am struggling to see how the complete shutdown of the economy is a proportionate response to the virus. Obviously, the cruise ship industry was going to suffer — and will be missed by no one who is environmentally responsible, if it were to shut down forever — as were the airlines, firstly as people chose not to travel, and then as governments have increasingly shut borders. And again, from an environmental point of view, the end of “peak” air travel can only be welcomed.

It also seemed to me, and to many other people, that large sporting and entertainment events might not be particularly sensible, and that the 9 to 5 commuter rail network would need to be shut down, involving an enforced hiatus for all kinds of industries that would be, to put it mildly, challenging for the existing economc order.

But the contagion of fear has now spread so virulently that almost every situation in which human beings gather is being shut down, either by government edict, government advice, or by people themselves. Pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and music venues are all shutting down, with the prospect of the widespread collapse of countless businesses, and the sudden impoverishment of millions of workers, while bailout plans, funnily enough, all seem designed to favour corporate interests, rather than the needs of the people.

The only area of life where people are going to be allowed to retain any freedom of movement, it seems, is in shopping for food, even though crowds at supermarkets represent just the kind of problems with transmission that are leading to the closure of every other business that involves humans being sociable. In addition — although it is rather incidental to the main issues — supermarkets have also been where modern, atomised, selfish humanity has to date been seen at its casual worst, in the disgraceful panic-buying of essential items to the exclusion of the needs of others.

Most alarmingly to my mind, however, are the proposals for population control that are being undertaken by our leaders. In France, for example, where, not uncoincidentally, President Macron was, until the coronavirus opportunity arrived, struggling to cope with a kind of low-level civil war via the “gilet jaunes” movement, he is now intent on implementing a total curfew on the French people, to be enforced by the police.

In Britain, we should no doubt expect the same over the coming days and weeks, as the government — pretty inevitably, it seems to me — will move towards curtailing free movement, and will start to revel in the possibility of controlling any and all dissent through the mobilisation of the police, and, perhaps, the military.

Personally, I don’t see how order can be maintained if millions of people, no longer with any income, are meant to isolate themselves in their homes on an open-ended basis, as the entire capitalist system collapses, but perhaps I’m missing something.

Am I, though?

Last year, as awareness of the already unfolding global environmental catastrophe spread, though the work of Greta Thunberg and the actions of Extinction Rebellion, anyone looking responsibly to the future wondered how we were going to halt unfettered capitalism to save the planet from the worst effects of catastrophic climate change. In response, however, the global capitalist system showed no willingness to genuinely contemplate how to effect revolutionary change.

Now, however, on the basis of a virus, some of those necessary changes are being implemented, but accompanied by dangerous panic and an even more dangerous authoritarianism on the part of our governments, which I don’t find healthy, and which I — and, I am sure, many, many other people — am determined to resist. Let us, by all means, protect the old and the vulnerable, but let us not accept that, almost overnight, our economies must grind to a sudden halt that will destroy the livelihoods of an untold number of people, while our horribly compromised leaders use the virus not only, as usual, to protect, corporate interests, but also to implement unprecedented social control.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

53 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, providing what I think may, in some ways, be a rather controversial assessment of the coronavirus crisis. Although I understand how infectious the virus is, as it stands now, with the UK economy grinding to a complete halt, and with the prospect of countless businesses closing down and millions of people finding themselves out of work, I’m finding myself wondering how the almost complete collapse of the global economy can be seen as a proportionate response to a virus that has, to date, led to less than 8,900 deaths worldwide.

    I welcome your thoughts.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    I guess because it has the potential to kill millions but it’s a fair question. We might arguably have been better off living in complete ignorance.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    So it seems to me, David, that we ought to be able, as a society, to stop being overrun with deaths by putting a huge amount of resources into identifying those at risk (the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions), and facilitating their isolation, with screened individuals (tested for the virus) liaising between them and the outside world, without shutting down the whole of the economy. I honestly can’t see how the shutdown model – with its massive job losses, and people supposedly cooped up for an unspecified amount of time in their homes, and now being housebound indefinitely with their kids – can actually work.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy, it’s like the chap in Dublin when asked for directions safely says “Well I wouldn’t start from here.” We have a far lower ratio of hospital beds than other afflicted countries. We don’t have the time now to remedy matters – we run our hospitals at 95% – Germany is at 60%. The Italian experience of triage is coming here any day now.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Fiona Branson wrote:

    They don’t have the kits to test people. Not even for routine testing of NHS staff caring for those with the virus. They don’t have enough protective clothing for staff in hospitals. They have a shortage of ventilators. They ignored it and didn’t act on WHO advice – and their whole approach has been based on avoiding any fiscal responsibility for the economic impact.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Fiona. I agree on both points – the government is responsible for an ongoing and hugely irresponsible attitude to testing, and to the protection for health workers, and is also showing a persistent refusal to want to engage wth the economic impact of the shutdown on millions of individuals without assets or savings. There’s been an immediate and catastrophic rise in unemployment, but ministers won’t talk about it, and nor will most of the media.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    I’ll leave all the talk about the virus and the pandemic to the experts. What I see is that governments are closing the borders which seems to be an act of war..? Another thought could be that closing the borders, they can make sure the health system only takes care of “their own”. The last and scariest thought is that the government knows something that we don’t.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the closing of borders is one aspect of a creeping authoritarianism that worries me, Toia, along with the mobilisation of large numbers of police – and, I expect, the military – to enforce compliance with total lockdowns. The lockdowns are driven by medical advice, but the authoritarian response comes from somewhere else completely – our leaders’ desire to subjugate all dissent.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    Andy, here in Denmark the health minister said, during a press conference, that “closing the borders wasn’t in his tool box” … so it is scary, but I am naive enough to trust the Danish government in this one. It just looks like there’s a lot more to it than they’re letting out.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I’d be more inclined to trust the government if I lived in Denmark too, Toia 😉
    Britain, sadly, has persistently built its wealth on the slaughter of those considered disposable, whether its own people or others. Now there’s a veneer of care about the elderly and the medically vulnerable overlaying the Tories’ response to the crisis, but all they really care about still is saving ther own voters, and those with wealth.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Millington-Artist wrote:

    These are worrying times. The pandemic is a gift to this govt. Either they don’t know what they’re doing, or as Toia Tutta Jung says……they do……..

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Jan. Yes, so is there malevolence behind the incompetence? Personally, I think the coming malevolence, if it materialises, will arise from the incompetence, but it won’t make it any less alarming. I’m already sensing a threatening tone in news reports from presenters talking with only slightly veiled anger about people who are perceived to not be adequately observing what now seems to have become a requirement that we all dedicate ourselves to isolation as much as possible.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Millington-Artist wrote:

    The proposed Coronavirus Bill is pure malevolence: and it’s hard to see how to stop it going thru, with the 80 seat majority. Terrifying times.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the bill is very troubling, Jan. Here’s Ian Dunt on why we need to keep the government under scrutiny: https://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2020/03/18/coronavirus-bill-the-biggest-expansion-in-executive-power-we

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Gosling wrote:

    All we’re getting from the mass hypnosis media is LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND NO PROPER STATISTICS WHATEVER.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    And how can we get any accurate sense of anything when there’s so little testing going on, Tony?

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote:

    UK death rate has increased to 4.0% of recorded infections, from 1.9%, over the past week.
    There is quite a lot of brainless repetition of HMG claims without checking the sums. Government is still talking about potential for doubling every 3 days. The number of known infections has been increasing at that rate, on average, for the past 2 weeks.
    WHO figures are available at https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the link to the WHO figures, Tony. That’s very useful.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Deborah Emin wrote:

    I think the key word here is incompetence leading to panic. In the US, the moron in chief has done all he usually does to betray everyone who is not putting money in his pocket. We need to talk about stupidity, incompetence, arrogance and how having no national leaders who both understand what is going on and who know how to implement useful plans, we end up in a quagmire of lost time, bad planning and no one truly knowing enough or caring enough to take charge despite their good intentions. When bullies rule, this is the outcome.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadly, yes, Deborah. The response of both the US and the UK has been, to put it mildly, full of holes. And every day brings fresh evidence of a lack of coherent thought. It’s one of the things that I was hoping to highlight in my article. It’s all supposed to be about shutting everything down, and social distancing, but, to give just one example of the lack of coherence, while the entertainment and hospitality sectors have been shut down, almost overnight, and millions of people suddenly have no jobs and no income, and no realistic expectation that their neoliberal governments will actually help them out, everyone still has to shop for food, and supermarket queues are undoing all the supposed advantages of having shut down everything that al;lowed us to mingle.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Turdi Ghoja wrote:

    As long as a very infectious disease going on out there, many people simply won’t fly, wont go to movies or other crowded areas to protect themselves or someone in their lives even if the death rate is low. Besides, there are a lot still unknown about the virus. it is reported that even those recovered people will suffer permanent scars to their lungs. People are talking about a vaccine and tossing around a timeline of 12-24 months. But, working in drug discovery as a researcher, I know it is very optimistic estimate. First of all, not for every viral infectious disease a vaccine can be developed. There is no vaccine for HIV, Herpes and other viral infectious diseases. I hope corona viruse’s similarity to the flu virus might work to our advantage. But, it is not given. Second, people who work on the discovery and development of a vaccine are also humans like everyone else. If the society shuts down as it is now, their life and work will be affected too. Many reagents and medical components come from China or India. The supply chain is disrupted now. It could affect how fast the research progress as well. The 12-24 months timeline estimate is based on research speed in a normally funtioning society, not under current environment. I read the news that the vaccine was administered to the first human subject a day ago, but it is more like a publicity stunt to boost peopl’s morals than anything else. Even if a vaccine is already discovered, the development will take long time even under a normal circumstances. In all like likelihood, the virus might run its course by the time we come up with a working vaccine in more like 2-3 years if we are lucky. Our actions will determine what that course will look like. If it is left alone like the flu, it will most likely to infect billions of people in the world and kill hundreds of millions. The death rate is relatively low now, because most infected still have access to treatment when they need it. But, if the hospitals run out of space and people could not get treatment for their conditions when they need it, the death rate will increase significantly. If they have to fend for themselves at hone, some may die from starvation if the virus does not kill. Another thing needs to be considered is how unceremonious a death it would be if our friends and families are afraid to attend our funerals and pay their final respects the way any dead person deserves when he leaves this world. Especially for cultures in which cremation is not allowed, it would present a problem. So, I think what the governments are doing now are the right thing. Money and economy matter only to the living people. Therefore, saving the lives of millions of people should be the top priority. I would rather starve to death than becoming a biohazardous waste when I die from this virus. Without taking extreme measure in one form or another, it is not possible to get out of this.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you very much, Turdi, for that detailed analysis of the situation from a medical point of view.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Constantine wrote:

    You aren’t the only one thinking it. We are on a slippery slope where these new laws can become draconian and we lose more than we bargained for. Many of us can only hold out so long without income, at some point I might have to defy the bans just to survive.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Michael. Good to hear from you. There’s still very little coverage of the millions of people suddenly hurled into unemployment with no income – it’s another failure of the mainstream media, where editors and journalists typically have no notion of what it means to be one of the millions of people living precarious lives economically. I don’t see how it can work if, to protect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, we crash the economy, creating a massive underclass of people without work and without incomes, and with no obvious means of survival whatsoever.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Caroline Colebrook wrote:

    The colllapse is not entirely due to the virus. The global economy has been accumulating an even bigger mountain of unpayable toxic debt than 2008 that was bound to collapse sooner or later and the virus crisis has just tipped it over the edge. The western governments now are dishing out billions in new grants to businesses and a dribble of grants to ordinary people to get them through but they can only do this by just printing more and more money with nothing real to back it up. So expect massive inflation and rocketting prices as in Germany in the 1920s. You’ll need a wheelbarrow of notes to buy a bag of potatoes. Cash is not the same thing as real wealth.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Caroline, and for voicing what we hear almost nothing about in the mainstream media – that, since the 2008 crash, our resurrected global economy and relentless materialism has been a dangerous mirage, yet again building up toxic levels of debt. All we’ve really heard about the problems has been through the actions of environmentalists, who forced the issue onto the front pages last year, highlighting the insane ecological cost of our endless, thoughtless, giddy, selfish spending spree.
    This is an overdue reckoning, but the human cost looks immense – and I don’t just mean the deaths, I mean the collateral damage of the collapse of capitalism in a system where almost every aspect of people’s survival has been remorselessly tied into the survival of that very system.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote, in response to 16, above:

    Well, we can’t, Andy. HMG abandoned any attempt to monitor or control community spread through testing, and we lost a week we can’t now get back. Although they seem to have woken up somewhat this week, the same Tory tunnel vision applies – lots of thought and plans for helping big business, but what to do for poor people, the self-employed, people who now have no jobs, can’t pay rent? This is far more urgent, yet 48hrs later, nothing.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    I agree, Tony. I’ve been having lots of conversations along these lines. Some income-less people will remain hidden, as their partners or family members – or friends even – will take responsibility for their economic welfare, even if it reduces everyone involved to subsistence levels of existence, but how many millions of people are going to be laid off who are either alone, or with partners and family members who have also been laid off? It’s like David Cameron’s f*ck-witted ‘Big Society’ come back to haunt us but across the whole of a self-devastated economy. And as you say, not a peep about it from the government or most of the media.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote, in response to 24, above:

    Andy, I’m seeing quite a lot of coverage of the problem, with lots of anecdotal material. What I’m not seeing is any useful answers from this Government. They’re doing great at wheeling out assurances, but no actual detail or process to obtain help beyond, FFS, the existing eugenic programme of Universal Credit.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    “The existing eugenic programme of Universal Credit”, Tony – that, sadly, seems very accurate. It’s hard to imagine this shower of inadequates coming up with a system that can get cash to the droves of the newly unemployed, or that can negotiate rent freezes. It’s all bailouts for big business, and “mortgage holidays” for the “stakeholders.”

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote, in response to 19, above:

    The US is now facing a terrible situation, largely thanks to the ideological belief that public medicine is communism and robs freedom.
    This won’t be the first time that US ideology has made matters worse. The emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant TB in NYC was largely caused by refusal to adequately fund treatment of HIV and AIDS patients in the 1980’s. There was an excellent 1990’s ‘File on 4’ about this.
    Most of the people who presented with HIV/AIDS in the early days were poor, many had chaotic lives, so were very reliant on public medicine. Their damaged immune systems made them susceptible to TB, which previously had been largely eliminated. It took many months to persuade the city authorities to fund treatment of these patients.
    Of course it was done on the cheap and dependent on targets, getting the incidence of TB among these patients down to (IIRC) 2%. Initially this went well, and TB retreated. Convinced the problem was solved once the incidence fell below 5%, the city authorities pulled the funding. But poor people with chaotic lives tended to stop taking antibiotics once they felt better. They needed more supervision than anyone would pay for. And 6 of the 7 antibiotics that had been used, stopped working because penny-pinching had allowed them to become walking laboratories for selective strains. Only a single, very expensive antibiotic – Rifampicin – remained effective.
    All of which seemed not to matter much to the great and the good, because frankly if poor people didn’t look after themselves, that was their lookout. Except cities are cities, and there was no isolation between poor people carrying resistant TB and the sons and daughters of the great and good, who shared the same subways, colleges, bars, clubs, malls, buses.
    Resistant TB is now endemic, gifted by capitalised medicine to the world.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote, in response to 25, above:

    Actually, money doesn’t really exist 🙂 It is borrowed into existence, and ceases to exist when repaid. A lot of misunderstanding arises from the popular ‘country as a household with debts’ analogy. It simply isn’t the case, for any country that can create as much money as it needs. (This is a huge structural problem with the EUR, since member states cannot create currency according to their needs, but only by agreement. A solution is a layer of democratic federal governance rather than brute technocracy,as Varoufakis argues).
    Yes, there are limits, but it’s not ‘debt’ that is inherently the problem. A country that uses the money supply to restrain wages is making a political choice. There is little hazard to creating sufficient money to generate and sustain full employment, because there’s a system that is beneficial. Think money as energy, with the capacity to do work. Insufficient money creates scarcity which creates inflation and inequality, which is more destructive than debt.
    The problem is that so much debt returns benefit to capital rather than labour. You can make a fortune by owning and renting shit, or betting, but can barely stay afloat by working for a living except as a priest or handmaiden of the pyramid scheme. Personal debt, which many people and families now rely on, is a mechanism for returning profit to capital, and that is just more of the same disease. That’s where the toxicity is: what the debt is used for, not debt itself.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent, Tony. Thank you for that succinct masterclass on the realities of debt!

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    Something that needs to be studied very carefully, and we may have emergency rules and regulations that are permanent and very repressive. There are some in the making now, but very few are aware of such actions.

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, until today there hadn’t been that much scrutiny of the proposed emergency legislation, Malcolm, although some people were sounding warnings. A 329-page draft has now been published, however, although it remains to be seen how much the media gives it proper scrutiny.
    FT report here: https://www.ft.com/content/0138ee78-69fa-11ea-800d-da70cff6e4d3

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Turdi Ghoja wrote:

    In case someone is wondering why Italy has 36,000 cases while Japan, who also has an older population twice the size of Italy’s and had a head start of about a month, has only 924 cases as of today, the answer lies on the Florida beaches for everyone to see.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Do you mean that Italians spent too long not self-isolating, which enabled the virus to spread, Turdi?
    I just had a look at what’s happening in Florida. Quite extraordinary. Spring breakers having to be ordered off the beaches by locals, because the governor won’t do anything: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/coronavirus-comes-spring-break-locals-close-florida-beaches-after-governor-n1163741

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    Turdi Ghoja wrote:

    I am referring to the difference in attitude.

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    I think America has a real problem, Turdi, because of the huge number of people who don’t ever want to be told what to do – that survivalist, go-it-alone streak that Trump tapped into so successfully in 2016.

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    This says a lot, Andy.
    ‘Scientists have been sounding the alarm on coronavirus for months. Why did Britain fail to act?’
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/18/coronavirus-uk-expert-advice-wrong

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Neil. Yes, that’s a very good explanation of the UK’s “too little, too late” situation. It’s actually mind-boggling to think that the “herd immunity” proposal was supported for so long by medical leaders without anyone doing the most basic maths, and working out that it would involve 400,000 deaths, which would, of course, completely overwhelm the NHS. Does it say something about Britain that those who rise to positions of leadership – in whatever field, it seems – share the contempt for everyone beneath them that is so characteristic of the elite?

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Turdi Ghoja wrote:

    Trump is already capitalizing on the pandemic by calling it Chinese virus after China started a campaign to pin the blame on the Americans. The typical Trump supporters must be loving how he sticks it back to the Chinese. He won the election last time playing the China card. I don’t see how he can lose to Biden after this pandemic. So, the race is on. Only problem is we still don’t know if we will have a normal functioning society in November to warrant an election by schedule.

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    I fear there may be pretty severe societal collapse in the US by November, Turdi, but I can’t see the Democrats coming up with a vision for reconstruction, as they’re too deeply entrenched in the existing capitalist system, which simply cannot conceive of helping the people at the expense of profit.
    As for Trump, his many tens of millions of cheerleaders love everything he does, of course, but they don’t quite constitute a majority, so I find the whole thing very difficult to read. But then the entire future of humanity is difficult to read right now.

  44. Coronavirus: How Did 8,900 Deaths Worldwide Lead to the Complete Shutdown of the Global Economy? | SRI LANKA says...

    […] Coronavirus: How Did 8,900 Deaths Worldwide Lead to the Complete Shutdown of the Global Economy? […]

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    I enthusiastically recommend this assessment of the coronavirus and the ‘new world order’ by an old friend, Gregory Sams: https://www.gregorysams.com/chaosworks/2020/03/19/covid-19-did-james-bond-fail-us/

    As I wrote when I posted it on Facebook:

    A great article by an old friend, Gregory Sams, about the coronavirus, and how troubling it is that, to try to prevent deaths from the virus, we are being asked to unquestioningly embrace the destruction of the economy, and a new status for all of us as prisoners in our own homes, in a world in which, for an unspecified amount of time – and perhaps with no prospect of recovery – there will be “no parties, no pubs, no sports, no cafes, no restaurants, no cinema or theatre, no shopping malls or shops, no schools, no dinner parties.”

    Please read it all if you can. My highlights are below:

    “The virus is upon us and its worst consequences are created by our fear of it and expectation that the state [will] protect us completely from the pandemic. Perhaps we would be better off to cautiously let this rip through the world and be over it. Whatever harm Covid-19 ends up dealing us will be multiplied several times over by the damage caused by government measures taken to protect us from it. It seems like the cure is designed to kill the patient. […]

    “We’ve been paddling downstream ever since [the global crash of 2008], knowing that eventually 2008 would revisit a world economy stretched to the limits. Seeing this as imminent and rather than let it all fall apart in a ragged unpredictable mess, far better to implement a sudden controlled demolition of the world economy. By shutting down the world’s major industries, destroying jobs, devaluing savings and investments, those unseen powers can oversee the collapse of their financial house of cards while dodging the attendant blame. […]

    In order to manage the deaths as a result of the virus, the government “will have killed off a tragically high proportion of businesses in this country, creating unprecedented job losses leading to inability to pay rents, utility bills, food costs and the usual commitments of life. Hospitals and GP clinics will be far less accessible. Heaven forbid that, like other countries, the free people of Britain be confined to our houses, requiring papers to leave on authorised trips, with military and police patrolling the streets. What will become of those members of society living on our streets?

    “What will be the effect of this unprecedented disembowelment of our culture? There will be no parties, no pubs, no sports, no cafes, no restaurants, no cinema or theatre, no shopping malls or shops, no schools, no dinner parties. No life except that fed to us through screens on our devices. It may ‘only’ last a few months but there are no promises, and thousands of small restaurants, cafes and other small businesses may never re-open.

    “If we are upset by this savaging of our society, culture, community and civilization, we cannot even go out in the street to protest. Throughout history people have taken to the streets, sometimes in numbers large enough to change the laws or even replace their tyrant with, all too often, another. In the 21st century the tools of social media have helped spawn unprecedented street protests in major cities on every continent of the globe except Antarctica. Most are responding to the corruption and oppression of hugely unpopular regimes. Other European states must look at the 1 year 3 months of weekly Gilets Jaunes yellow jacket demos across France and shudder as they did during the French Revolution.

    “Having now successfully used Covid-19 to test this totalitarian shutdown of society, kettling us all in our homes, it can be implemented in the future to quell any protests over drastic measures ahead.”

  46. William Kirby says...

    The Fact that the western media in general and our own uk media in particular have chosen not to inform the public that the shanghai Government and some others have been giving infected people mega-dose IV Vit C is a great shame and obviously hides an agenda that suggests our government actually wanted to spread the disease.

    Also, besides being told to wash our hands, stay 2 meters apart and self-isolate ourselves in our homes, what the Government should have been telling its citizens was to build-up their immunity in order to prepare them for when or if the virus entered these shores. Yet, not one Dr or Dietician or NHS spokesperson ever broached the subject of building up the immune system.

    A virus which causes inflammation of the Respiratory system would efficiently be reduced with Vit D3 which up-regulates the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties (it is used to reduce asthmatic problems) and Vit C which has anti-viral properties (See PubMed, and Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, also Dr Richard Chung re Covid19 china).

    It’s a strange and apocalyptic time right now but We have the tools to defeat this virus without waiting 12-18 months for a Big Pharma money making vaccine extravaganza that could well be unsafe and in-effective and if Bill Gates and the Globalists have anything to with it, will probably be laced with Population Reduction Adjuvants.

    sleep safe

    Will

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you for your thoughts, Will. Very good to hear from you.

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    Martin A Gugino wrote:

    Total isolation for three weeks to stop the new cases into the emergency room, and ICU, and buy some time to make ECMO units, and PPEs for the medical staff. Then maybe PPEs for the people.
    Then you can “move around” again.

  49. Andy Worthington says...

    The message is slowly sinking in, Martin, and suggesting a time limit sounds like a good idea (even if it has to be adjusted later), because people find the open-ended nature of it difficult to deal with. If our leaders in the US and UK were at all capable of genuine leadership, we’d have simple, coherent public service announcements being broadcast and published everywhere relentlessly.

    However, there are, unfortunately, far too many holes in the system – people congregating in supermarkets is definitely one, and here in London some people are still being made to go to various workplaces, and using public transport, even when those are non-essential jobs (I don’t think the construction industry, for example, has got the message yet).

    And, of course, there’s confusion about isolation itself. It’s not reasonable to expect people not to go out at all, when there are so many ways of going out that don’t involve interactions with other people (me and my bike is one example, but also just taking a walk, going to the park, walking the dog but not huddling close to other dog owners). However, people need to be responsible.

    If they’re not and a clampdown is enforced, it will not only find most of us under martial law for the first time on our lives (which really aren’t the kind of powers we want our governments to think they have the right to use), but it will also impact horribly on people trapped in small, overcrowded homes, and, for example, those without gardens. Imagine living in a couple of rooms with little kids and being prohibited from going out at all. Then imagine an abusive or potentially abusive partner also being cooped up under those conditions.

  50. Anna says...

    Late responding as usual. I agree with Turdi, that there’s no other way. Trump & Boris have wasted precious time laughing it off and now everyone has to pay the price. ‘Letting it run its course ‘unfortunately is the ‘herd immunity’ idea and as you pointed out yourself, that would mean hundreds of thousands of deaths just in the UK alone, many millions in less developed countries. One of our epidemiologists said at an early stage, that as there is no resistance whatsoever, whoever gets in close contact with a carrier, will be contaminated. The earlier you start with closing down social life, the slower it spreads and the more time you have to prepare the health system. Here (Poland) we have even less doctors & nurses per 1000 persons than the UK – possibly because so many of ours went to work in the UK :-), but we closed down educational facilities at the very start, more than two weeks ago and since then streets are deserted (check this, it’s worth reading too :- ) https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/preparing-post-pandemic-world-200325132809404.html.
    The economic impact is disastrous, but imagine what would happen without the lock-downs : corona victims not only dying because they were too weak, but heaven knows how many more just because the care system was completely overwhelmed. Plus all the ‘regular’ seriously ill who are now at the bottom of the pecking order. So incredible piles of corpses which are also contagious. Forget about burials of your loved ones, it’ll be mass cremations.
    That would eventually also lead to terrible poverty, with too many breadwinners not out of work but dead.

    I’m not an economist, but it seems to me that logically (I know it’s wishful thinking), pumping cash not into useless corporations such as cruise ship and airline companies but in unemployed ‘workers’ – also from those companies – would keep consumption going and therefore economy, but not consumption for the sake of consumption, but that of bare necessities and modest luxuries and after a while – when restrictions are eased – the reopening of restaurants etc. That would bring us back to a much healthier economy, with people going on vacation with a tent to Brighton rather than flying to Sri Lanka to take selfies and get sunburned. No need to quite go back to the 1950’s but some common sense of priorities & proportions can be learned from those days. Far too many people who do not need a private car keep one, but reliable public transport and then can afford taxis when necessary. We do not need 15 different painkillers (with the same ingredients) for every single type of pain. Plenty of new jobs could be created for a green aconomy. What is needed immediately, is a concerted effort to litterally keep all the unemployed alive until they can go back to work in useful employment and at the same time a long-term strategy not to repeat the same rabid capitalism mistakes. Will this global disaster be enough to bring about such a change? I prefer that question to remain rethorical, but at least we – as voters – will have to push for it as hard as we can.

    Playing board games in the family rather than every kid having his own TV, lap-top, smart-phone & video games. A guy in a German company (who actually was the first one to catch the virus in his small town in Bavaria and is now OK) wrote that they are selling more jig-saw puzzles than they ever have in their 30 years of existence. More than Christmas, Easter and Black Friday combined, he wrote litterally. And jig-saws do not need electricity. With airlines crashing, maybe we will come to our senses and buy European wine in Europe and let Latin America enjoy the Chilean ones and the Aussies theirs. There is enormous potential for drastic changes for the better and thanks to Bernie Sanders at least the Dems have taken on some pro-workers measures, albeit a dismal drop in the massive corporation bailouts. Seems from this post that the UK has not even done this little… Which is a real drama and criminal.

    As for me, at 71 and therefore in the vulnerable section, I refuse to have my shopping done by younger friends as they still have at least half a life ahead, have kids and are liable (hopefully for them) not to develop symptoms when infected – but then will continue infecting others. I on the contrary run the same risk of catching it, but am more likely to develop symptoms and then immediately stop going out. So I’m probably less of a risk for society. We are lucky, thanks to early shut-down, we so far have less than 1.200 cases (probably much more as like everyone else we lack testing) and only 16 deaths/38 million population.
    That will no doubt increase, but until now streets are virtually deserted, so it is easy to avoid proximity of other people. And my little local supermarket – with limited choice, but who cares – is supplied on a regular basis and there are no empty shelves. One person max per pharmacy, four per bank outlet – the rest waits outside and can distance at ease – five per church celebration + a priest :-). I go out 1 – 2 times a week and haven’t seen a policeman anywhere.
    If we manage to keep up this self-discipline, there’s hope our health system will not crash for a while yet. Unlike my leg muscles and I do feel like I’m watching a dystopian SF movie.

    As for personal freedom etc long-term results, I fear a dreadful increase in xenophobia. When we – in our pampered world – will have come out of the crisis, our governments will have another ‘justification’ for closing borders and keeping refugees out from countries at war & from poorer continents who obviously will take the brunt of this pandemic and take much longer to get over it. Boris now has a taste of the results of his negligence, can’t wait for Trump doing the same.

  51. Andy Worthington says...

    Lovely to hear from you, Anna, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Here in the UK we can only hope that the almost complete shutdown of the economy and the almost empty streets will “flatten the curve” and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, as well as making a dent in the death toll. The situation is clearly much worse in the US, as Donald Trump is so dangerously delusional. On a positive note, maybe he will lose in November as a result of his responsibility for what is to come.

    On the economic front, it is quite extraordinary that, in the UK, the government finally gave up on its “laissez-faire” approach and tore up its rulebook. Shutting down the economy was unthinkable until just two weeks ago, but although the new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is getting huge plaudits from media pundits, it’s worth remembering that all he has really done to date is to promise to bail out big business, whatever it costs (£330bn, apparently), to protect the “business as usual” model of insane turbo-charged global capitalism that has brought us to this dreadful place. I don’t even know what guarantees there are – if any – about how some of that money will get to the workers who need it, plus, of course, the millions of self-employed people now without work and money have been told that they have to wait until June for their recently promised payments to come through, even though so many of them were actually living from week to week.

    As for the future, I’m very much hoping that, when we finally come out of this crisis, we resist efforts by our leaders to reinstate “business as usual.” We desperately need to change direction – as the environmental activists have been showing us since autumn 2018 – and we need to take on board the lessons from the coronavirus as a wake-up call. But people will need to be prepared to fight, and also not simply to retreat to their former selfish behaviour once efforts begin to reestablish the old order. For starters, the cruise ship industry needs to die, and the airline industry needs to be massively scaled back. If we can understand that, we have a chance. If we don’t, we collectively deserve the extinction that we will actually be embracing by insisting that our pre-coronavirus economies were, in any way, either healthy or sustainable.

  52. Emma Worthing says...

    No virus justifies a totalitarian global superstate. Or just one totalitarian state. Or totalitarian city. I have been in lockdown in Poland for 3 weeks and I want to kill myself already. I’m having conversations in my head trying to explain to my parents that I’ve had a wonderful life – but I am not cut out for a totalitarian state of total restriction loss of all freedoms. What freedom do I have now? To eat and sleep and watch bullshit propaganda. YouTube is my lifeline. How much longer will that be free?

  53. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Emma, and sorry to hear of your difficulties with enforced isolation. You are certainly not the only one. I was interested, yesterday, to read the following comments by former Supreme Court Justice, Lord Sumption, who, on Radio 4, “heavily criticised Derbyshire police for stopping people exercising in the Peak District saying that such behaviour risks plunging Britain into a ‘police state'”, as the Guardian described it, also writing:

    He also criticised the government’s “hysterical” approach to stem the spread of the coronavirus by closing essential businesses and instructing people to stay at home, arguing that the move would wreck the economy and saddle future generations with a mountain of debt.

    “Anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria,” he claimed. “Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.”

    He said it was important to recognise that hysteria can turn societies into “despotisms” and warned that some of the press coverage echoed and amplified panic.

    He added: “Yes, this is serious, and, yes, it’s understandable that people cry out to the government, but the real question is, is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt?”

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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