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.
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.
Last week, we were told Diane Dodds and the Stormont Executive were urging all civil servants to return to their offices, in order to boost city and town centre economies. This is the latest example of Stormont putting profit before workers' health.
The Tory Government’s failure to convincingly meet their own five tests increases both the likelihood and severity of a second wave of the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected hundreds of thousands and taken the lives of thousands. Most scientific and medical experts warn that the situation is bound to get far worse, with millions likely to lose their lives globally. This crisis has demonstrated both the utter ineptitude of the capitalist system to handle a health crisis of this proportion, and the heroic efforts of health workers, scientists, teachers, firefighters and many others, often volunteers, who risk their own lives, working long hours to contain and fight the virus.
Yet, Johnson and his government are continuing to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. They have not ordered schools to shut; they have not ordered all non-essential businesses to close and implement home-working where possible. These measures are needed if people are truly to be able to avoid all non-essential contact with others.
The spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19 has become a major health crisis, unlike anything seen in a century. At the time of writing, around 156 countries have been impacted, with more than 170,000 infected and more than 6,500 confirmed deaths, including 36 in Britain and 2 in Ireland, with those figures likely to rise dramatically.
There are shortages in many countries of basic medical provisions such as gowns, gloves and proper facial masks. New publicly owned entities need to be established under democratic control to fast-track production of such supplies and life-saving equipment such as ventilators. The disastrous market-driven cuts in hospital funding need to be reversed, by mass struggle led by trade unions and workers’ political organisations. The labour movement and the left internationally must rise to this challenge — the coronavirus shows us that the world is not safe in the hands of capitalism and its politicians.