Originally published: CADTM (March 19, 2020)
The coronavirus pandemic is a serious public health problem and the human suffering caused by the spread of this virus will be enormous. If it massively affects countries of the Global South with very fragile public health systems that have been undermined by 40 years of neo-liberal policies, the death toll will be very high. We must not forget the critical situation of the Iranian population, victim of the blockade imposed by Washington, a blockade that includes medicines and medical equipment.
Under the pretext of necessary fiscal austerity to repay public debt, governments and major multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and regional banks such as the African Development Bank have everywhere enforced policies that have deteriorated public health systems: job cuts in the health sector, precarious employment contracts, reduction of hospital beds, closure of local health centres, increase of health care costs and of prices of medicines, under-investment in infrastructure and equipment, privatization of various health sectors, under-investment by the public sector in research and development of treatments for the benefit of the interests of large private pharmaceutical groups…
Editors note: The present version contains a handful of minor edits and corrections to the original Marx21 interview. Two additional questions from Luca de Crescenzo for an Italian translation have also been appended to the end of the original interview. In addition to Big Farms Make Big Flu (Monthly Review Press, 2016), we highly recommend Rob Wallace’s article, “Notes on a novel coronavirus,” published in the early stages of the outbreak (January 29, 2020). As Wallace pointed out then:
While authorities stumble about figuring out what to do, the scale of impact can suddenly engage in escape velocity. As 2019-nCoV itself demonstrated moving from a single food market to the world stage in a month, the numbers can ramp up so far and fast that an epidemiologist’s best effort, their raison d’être, is dealt a lethal blow by facts on the ground.
If you are a freelancer, who pays your sick leave? If you work in a retail store on a zero-hours contract and the store closes, are you out of luck?
Most media reports on the employment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have focused on the possibility of lay-offs and the financial consequences for employees. There has been less discussion on what happens to those workers who are not officially laid off, but whose contracts are not renewed, whose hours are whittled to zero, or whose employment agency simply tells them sorry, there is no more work available. Depending on the country, the worker may not be covered by unemployment insurance or other critical protections, such as paid sick leave.
ILRIG & PHM_SA Public Forum:
The state of health care in South Africa: Is the NHI the answer?
Community House 4pm -6.30pm 27th Feb 2020
Lydia Cairncross - PHM_SA
Amelia Mfiki-Zazini - Health Activist
Call 0214476375 for details