This crisis was not inevitable. Stormont has had months to strengthen our health service in preparation for a resurgence of Covid. Instead, they were focused on reopening the economy as fast as possible in the interests of big business, which is a key reason for the current spike
Workers generally should follow the example of the Royal Mail staff in Derry. We have a legal right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, without penalisation. However, in order to make that right a reality, we need the power of collective organisation.
Queen’s University now joins Glasgow and Manchester in locking down halls of residence due to Covid-19 outbreaks. Within the first week of the university term, 30 students in Elms Village in south Belfast have tested positive for the virus. Fears of rising infection rates and the limitations of health and safety measures have been ignored by management in favour of forcing lecturers, support staff and students to participate in in-person classes without a uniform policy of sanitisation, mask-wearing and social distancing.
The most glaring of these contradictions is that, while we can no longer visit friends and family in their homes, we can meet them in a cafe, pub or anywhere else there is a till, alongside countless other people. Meanwhile, most of us are in close proximity with others in workplaces, schools and on public transport on a daily basis.