Jeremy Corbyn laments worldwide healthcare inequality amid coronavirus pandemic

By Mason Quah

FORMER UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has slammed inequality of access to healthcare in the world’s worst-hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic – at a time when the world’s total confirmed cases has crept over 10 million.

In a webinar to the Brazil Solidarity Initiative, former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared alongside Brazil’s former president Dilma Rousseff and journalist Glenn Greenwald – representing the three countries where the pandemic has hit hardest.

The Islington North MP hit out at the UK Government for touting herd immunity in the early days of the virus spread, and claimed it was only mitigated by the “superhuman efforts” of frontline workers.

He also claimed that disproportionately high fatality rates in Brazil, the USA and Britain was not down to the quality of healthcare, but the inequality in accessing it.

Corbyn reiterated that it must be the science of medicine – and not of Darwinism – which is heeded by the state.

He said: “It was the theories of Charles Darwin that helped us to understand the process of evolution.

“Have they forgotten that the science has developed for us a protection against many of the world’s worst diseases? Polio, Smallpox, Diptheria and so many others.

Speaking just days before the Conservative government passed an immigration bill which would restrict free movement in the EU, Corbyn urged the audience to appreciate the immigrant workers who are risking themselves on the frontline.

Out of around 700,000 nurses registered in the UK, 32,000 were trained in the EU and another 77,000 came from non-EU nations.

Amid an environment in which BAME communities are more likely to die from the coronavirus due to structural racism and inequality, he added: “We must not look down on the people who look after us.”

“Our health, our individual health is only as strong and secure as the health of our neighbour and their neighbour and their neighbour.

“A healthy world is a healthy world for everyone. An unequal world is a dangerous world, first for the poorest people and eventually for everybody else.”

Healthcare is the most obvious institution to be eroded by austerity, in the UK especially.

The importance of funding healthcare is deeply entwined with the damage done under austerity and right-wing governance, Corbyn said.

NHS figures show a 94 per cent bed occupancy rate in December (97 per cent in his own constituency of Islington North).

The former party leader attributed the current healthcare crisis to the chronic underfunding of the health service over the past decade.

For example, in Brazil, the impoverished working class and the native tribes of the Amazon have been hit hardest, as have those without job security or health insurance in the US.

In Britain, it is the people who can’t afford the lost pay under quarantine and don’t have the proper living spaces to isolate from vulnerable family members. Figures show that those in deprived areas are perishing at twice the rate as the more affluent.

Corbyn said: “We have to ensure we do not go into a period of austerity at the end of this.”

While the Prime Minister told Times Radio earlier this week that he would rather imitate Roosevelt’s New Deal economics as opposed to Cameron’s austerity, it is yet to be seen whether the Conservative Government will even be somewhat Keynesian.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have been a mixed bag for climate activism.

On the one hand, the environment issues seen under lockdown are another layer through which the disparities of outcome are further stratified.

“Places that are the worst polluted, that have the least quality of public health and environmental protection have suffered the most,” Corbyn said.

On the other hand, he said, people have taken a greater interest in environmental causes as a result of the lockdowns and the associated reductions in pollution.

He added: “Because of the lockdown some people around the world for the first time in their lives have breathed relatively clean air, for the first times in their lives young people of Delhi have seen the beauty of some of the wonderful buildings there.”

It is these experiences, shared by people across the globe that have united people under the banner of environmental sustainability and towards the policy positions of a green industrial revolution.

Brazil is a focal point in this debate, due to the nation’s unique environmental resources and the potential profits that entice people to desecrate them.

The former Labour leader, who is still as vocal as ever from the backbenchers, urged supporters – some of who are disillusioned with the party under Sir Keir Starmer – to continue battling against intersectional inequality.

A generation appear to have been inspired towards environmentalism by the lockdown, towards socialism by the tightening economic hardships, and towards social justice under the Black Lives Matter protests.

He praised the work of Sanders for dispelling the taboo against discussions of socialism in the United States, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for picking up that torch.


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