The COVID-19 Pandemic poses the greatest mass threat any of us have faced in our lifetime, and the political and economic aftermath poses both the greatest threat to and opportunity for progressive change.
I want to deal with three issues:
- Human Rights are not just for the good times.
When the victorious nations who had come through the ravages of the Depression and the 2nd World War, came together in 1945, they set up the United Nations and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948. Many different international agencies came together under the United Nations’ umbrella, and the number of binding Human Rights declarations increased to clarify and include those groups who were not specifically mentioned such as women, refugees and disabled people. Today the UN incorporates 195 countries.
Human rights are freedoms and protections that we all have because we are human beings.
Disabled people enjoy human rights when we can make choices about our life, have the right support to live in dignity and be included in the community, and when we can have a family or take part in political life. However, our rights are also breached every day when we are placed in segregated institutions or left without essential support to meet basic needs.
Article 3 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights confirms the right to life. Disabled people are included implicitly in that 1948 declaration, and explicitly since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified (June 2009).
The Coronavirus Act 2020, however, has revoked the Social Care Act (2014) under which severely impaired disabled people are provided with care in their own home or given direct payments to self-manage to do so. The lack of medical support, PPE for staff, and lack of testing for the disabled populations of care homes, and, until recently, the absence of statistics on their acquiring COVID-19, will lead to a higher death rate than was necessary among disabled people.
- Herd immunity is Eugenics
Dominic Cummings’ eugenics-based theory of herd immunity accepted that a significant number of disabled and older would die, but the economy would be protected from closing down. Six precious weeks were wasted before the UK Government begrudgingly adopted lockdown. Instead of promoting herd immunity the UK Government should have followed the WHO rules on quarantine, tracing and testing, which limited the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.
- What happens after COVID 19.
Several political and economic questions must be asked in relation to what follows the Pandemic:
- Should businesses be bailed out or nationalised?
- Should powerful dictators around the world be challenged and stopped by those who want an eco-friendly, rational and more equitable approach?
- Should the state be properly funded for public services?
- Should a greater proportion of funding be transferred to poorer communities?
- Should a stronger global rules-based system challenge neo-liberalism for the many and not the few?
by Richard Rieser, Disability Officer, Islington North CLP