Evening “open letter”: Belgian ruling elite calls for spreading Covid-19
By Jacques Valentin
September 5, 2020
On Thursday 27 August, the Belgian newspapers La Libre Belgique and Le Soir published an Open Letter signed by doctors, lawyers, economists, teachers and journalists. Entitled “Open letter to our political leaders: It is urgent to completely review the management of the Covid-19 crisis”, it outright denies the seriousness of the epidemic as well as the usefulness of health measures to stop it.
With nearly 10,000 deaths for less than 12 million inhabitants, Belgium suffered 853 deaths per million inhabitants, a rate exceeded by only one country: Peru. Despite the “sometimes appalling conditions” in which many elderly Belgians died according to Médecins Sans Frontières, the Open Letter has no words of compassion to evoke the victims and families bereaved by the pandemic (Read: The terrible fate of the elderly in Belgium in the face of Covid-19). This indifference is chilling given the high number of signatory doctors.
The Open Letter, whose analyzes and arguments are incredibly poor despite the supposed quality of its signatories, seeks to minimize the disaster. She treats the coronavirus as “a virus the dangerousness of which does not exceed that of the seasonal flu that we experience each year in general” almost “indifference.”
The Open Letter carefully avoids quantifying the loss of human life from Covid-19, but this is an outright lie. The annual flu kills on average ten times fewer deaths than the Covid-19 has already done in Belgium. According to infectious disease specialist Yves Van Laethem, the flu kills around 1,000 people per year in Belgium, with relatively limited variations. We would have to go back to the Hong Kong flu epidemic of 1968, the most terrible after that of the Spanish flu of 1918-9, to find a comparable number of deaths.
Unlike the flu, the population does not have antibodies against Covid-19 which is highly contagious and which without containment measures to contain it would have affected at least 60 percent of the population. The hospitalization rate for Covid-19 is much higher than that for the flu, as is the death rate. Hence the high number of seriously ill and dead, despite the confinement having succeeded in limiting the contamination to a relatively small fraction of the population. There have already been more than 200,000 deaths in Europe.
The Letter however denies the proven benefits of confinement: “Confining healthy people has no scientific basis”.
In fact, in the context of the unpreparedness of spring 2020, with the lack of masks and protective devices and the impossibility of separating the healthy from the sick, the epidemic was blazing in Belgium, France, and across the country. ‘Europe. Each infected person transmitted his disease to about 3 other people; the number of deaths per day doubled every 2 days on average.
If containment had been decided a week later, the April mortality peak would therefore have been much higher, as well as total mortality. In France, the hospitals of Paris (APHP) overwhelmed by the influx of patients recognized that everything had been played out to one day.
But the Open Letter is not interested in the scientific results nor does it seek to honestly reconstruct what worked or failed in the measures implemented. It is above all a partisan attack directed against the policy of containment. No doubtful argument is spared the reader to discredit it: the countries which have not confined would have done just as well or even better, the confinement would encourage family violence, and it would inevitably increase poverty and thus mortality.
These arguments are only a false cover for the interests of the financial aristocracy. The decisive objection – namely, that far too much money is spent to save lives which are mostly working or poor – also surfaces in the “Open Letter”. She exclaims: “Economically, 50 billion have evaporated. Never has so much money been invested to ‘save’ so few lives, even in the wildest estimates of the number of supposedly averted deaths (a figure that remains unknown to this day). ”
In reality everything is false in these sentences; we know fairly precisely the number of deaths and their acceleration with the rise of the epidemic. As for the sums of money “evaporated”, it is not 50 billion but more than 2,000 billion euros that have gone into European subsidies to banks and large companies. Unemployment is skyrocketing and small and medium-sized businesses go bankrupt not because health systems have tried to treat the disease, but because banks and the ultra-rich monopolize society’s resources.
The “Open Letter” spares the reader no fallacious argument that nothing can or should be done to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
Bluntly declaring that “wearing a mask has absolutely no interest” except possibly if “physical distancing cannot be respected”, the “Open Letter” adds: “The vaccine was presented to us from the outset as the only solution at the end of this epidemic, when its safety, effectiveness and the duration of its possible protection over time are uncertain. Other medium or long term solutions should be considered, such as collective immunity. “
However, collective immunity consists in letting as many people as possible infected, hoping that the survivors will retain immunity which will slow the spread of the virus. This is the strategy put in place by Donald Trump in the United States, claiming that we should not disrupt the economy and the extraction of profits: it is enough to wait until everyone is contaminated, whatever the death that would result. The result is that the richest country in the world also has the highest death toll: 191,481 to date.
It is a policy which, in order to preserve the wealth and privileges of a parasitic and doomed ruling class, refuses to rely on the accumulated scientific knowledge and on the capacity of society to organize itself to face the virus. Despite the extraordinary advances in science since 1918-1919, Covid-19 should be allowed to infect and kill millions of people like the Spanish flu did.
The Open Letter underscores the extent to which medical and academic circles are permeable to the pressures of class interests which push for the unrestricted reopening of the economy. Its signatories demand the departure of experts who advise the government to get rid of anything that closely or remotely resembles a containment policy: “The legitimacy of the experts currently in charge must be questioned”.
Stating that “The current climate of covidophobia is utterly unwarranted and generates harmful anxiety,” the Letter calls for policies to be put in place that would spread the virus: “The long-term risks associated with excessive hygiene must be put in place. taken into account. … Children should be able to return to nursery, primary and secondary school in normal conditions, with basic hygiene measures such as hand washing. … Higher education students must find their way back to the audiences and to social life in general. ”
These nauseating arguments underline the indifference of the ruling elite to the number of deaths that its defense of its wealth would provoke. Workers have the right to scientifically sound information and perspectives in order to protect their lives and class interests. We invite our readers to widely disseminate the WSWS analyzes on Covid-19, and to form their own security committees, independent from the state and unions, to ensure their health and safety in their workplaces and in popular neighborhoods.
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