Capitalist government responses to COVID-19 ensure next pandemic will be even deadlier
The origins of the first monkeypox outbreak in Mexico aren’t known for sure, but reporting done by Argentinian news media outlet Infobae has suggested a possible explanation. In their piece, they report that a tourist from Dallas, Texas was on vacation in Puerta Valla when they were told they needed to quarantine as they were suspected of having monkeypox. This tourist ignored the request and instead flew back to Dallas, despite the attempts of Mexican authorities to track and prevent them from doing so, possibly spreading monkeypox on their way.
To be clear, outbreaks of monkeypox, while a very serious health risk for those infected, don’t indicate the disease will necessarily constitute the next pandemic, but it may become entrenched in countries across the world. This report is damning of the person who chose to flagrantly ignore health recommendations, however, focusing solely on this individual for their hand in knowingly spreading a disease is ludicrous, considering the global north’s continuous disregard to implement protocols to control and lessen the impact of COVID-19.
From the beginning of the virus’ arrival to North America and Western Europe, capitalist governments have resisted the obligation to protect the health and safety of their populations. Retreading the lack of an appropriate systemic health response in full since 2020 by these states would be repetitive and unnecessary, but in discussing the broad strokes, they were objective failures. The U.S refused to implement lockdowns, states banned vaccine mandates, and stimulus packages weren’t enough to help working-class Americans make due. The U.K ended all COVID restrictions on the cresting wave of omicron, a logical progression from their assertion that herd immunity was the solution to the virus. Canada’s CERB program to support workers was implemented, and while it did help some, it was closed after 14 months with a growing number of recipients being forced to repay what they received. Meanwhile, since the beginning of 2022, provincial governments lifted restrictions with no regard to case numbers or strengthening failing health systems.
The refusal to institute any long-lasting, structural change to the system in order to protect people’s health demonstrates how little the capitalist state truly cares for the lives of workers. “Essential workers,” especially, have been left to die by an uncaring system.
This trend has been devastating not only to those who have faced the brunt of the death, trauma and hopelessness the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, but to the mental health of those paying attention. As testing capacity is gutted, case number updates are becoming less accurate and less frequent. Mask and vaccine mandates have become successfully politicized by far-right culture war hawks, enabled by seemingly-helpless liberals who insist they’re on your side, as soon as you help them win the next election. COVID-19 is fading from the spotlight, while the disease continues to destroy lives and gut what little is left of the systems we rely on.
These governments have effectively shifted any focus on public health measures to combat this disease, and blunted the seriousness of the pandemic. COVID-19 is now referred to as a “common illness” and new mask mandates are unlikely. The fight for masking has seemingly shifted to planes, where certain countries are fighting for them to be maintained… and losing.
Beyond the governmental response, feelings on mask mandates have become divided. Only 56 per cent of Americans supported mandates on planes in April. Despite 73 per cent of Canadians supporting certain mask mandates, the majority of Ontarians supported the lifting of restrictions in March. One in three Americans now believe COVID-19 to be over.
The pandemic is not over. But that’s an irrelevant fact to a growing number of people in the global north. To us, the pandemic is ending because our governments have made a conscious effort to make us believe that the pandemic is ending. The desperate clutching to the thought that we can return to a pre-COVID normal is fueling the policies that make this outcome less possible.
This framing is intentional and profitable. In January 2021, it was reported that billionaires made $3.9 trillion since the pandemic was declared, while workers lost 3.7 trillion. Managers bet on how many workers would get COVID-19, and billions lost income while 10 men doubled their fortune. Politicians like Ontario Premier Doug Ford handed millions of dollars in program subsidies to businesses that didn’t qualify, then simply didn’t follow up. These facts illustrate the truth of capitalism. Much like the blatant reveal of capitalism’s bloodlust in calls for old people to sacrifice themselves for the economy in the U.S, it’s become clear the system is a death cult.
The worst part, however, is that the destruction, devastation, plunder and resulting exhaustion combine to leave us less prepared for the next pandemic. Like the tourist from Dallas, many of us are over masking mandates, capacity limits, social distancing, vaccine requirements and discussion of viruses. The very tools needed to prevent spread of COVID are being tossed out of the window wholesale for any other communicable disease in favour of profit, whether we know it or not.
Rest assured, while no pandemic is guaranteed, the possibility of another one in coming years is distressingly high. What can be certain is that climate change will release long dormant viruses and bacteria back into the general population. A recently published study also showed that climate change will additionally increase the transmission of viruses between mammal species. At this rate, odds for a safe, pandemic-free future under capitalism are near-impossible.
Countries that strive towards socialism, however, are successfully combating the current pandemic as best they can. Cuba’s policies led to lifting a mask mandate, after three weeks without a single COVID-19 death. China’s lockdown policies have curbed spread of COVID-19. The U.S clutches their pearls and pretends to care about the lives of people affected by lockdowns, while a million of their own people dead from the virus means nothing to them. While Vietnam arrests members of their government who have been implicated in a price gouging scheme, Doug Ford facilitated the majority of free rapid tests for private schools and held back billions meant for COVID relief to the tune of a comfortable re-election.
These governments have correctly assessed the danger that COVID-19 has posed to their populations, and are tackling the challenge at hand. While their approaches may not be perfect, and there are certainly criticisms to be made, it’s astonishing that anyone could call their overall approach inhumane while those under the rule of capitalist dictatorships are sacrificed to the ventilators.
Two years into COVID-19, societies in the global north have discarded any pretext for protecting the health of their people. Whether their reasons stem from “personal freedom,” to “nearing the end of the pandemic,” to merely failing to mention the ongoing crises we’re being forced to endure, their outcomes are the same: a systemic and foundational effort to favour profit and corporate growth over all else. The pandemic has been shown to exacerbate the class, racial and gender divides present in the system for centuries, with absolutely no discussion in how the system benefits and perpetuates these inequalities.
Instead, denizens of these countries are being told that our exhaustion at the virus itself is valid and the only rational response is to discard the protections that remind us of its existence. They’re wrong. The only solution is to bring about the end of the system that throws bodies, minds, and souls into the meat grinder. Any other answer simply fortifies the machine and its insatiable bloodlust.