Online meeting: Where next for the Covid crisis? (10 January 2022)

Monday 10 January 2022, 6:30pm BST

Where next for the Covid crisis, as Omicron cases surge will the government finally do the right thing?

About this event

Once again cases and hospitalisations are rising once more. In some countries the number of new deaths is rising sharply too. It remains to be seen whether that will happen in this country too.

But the current situation already means that large numbers are becoming seriously ill, cases of Long Covid will grow and deaths are rising at an unacceptable rate.

All of this puts enormous strain on the NHS itself. Healthcare workers are off sick themselves while serious cases mount and the peak of the winter ‘flu season is approaching. The same combination of risks, staff illness and rising cases is affecting other sectors, from refuse collection to transport to schools.

Despite all this, Boris Johnson has decided to take no extra measures to restrict the virus, in contrast to the devolved administrations. Countries such as Germany have adopted new measures successfully, and the ZeroCovid countries continue unscarred by the mass deaths seen here and elsewhere.

The question now is whether the NHS faces a breaking-point and will be able to cope with government policy. Our excellent speakers will discuss this and related topics.

Speakers Confirmed:

  • Diane Abbott MP
  • Kevin Courtney
  • Deepti Gurdasani
  • Emmy Kelly
  • Richard Murphy
  • Helen O’Connor
  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
  • with more to follow

Webinar: After Cummings – Why we still need a Zero Covid strategy

Monday 21 June 2021, 6:30pm BST

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The evidence from Dominic Cummings has highlighted the how reckless the government has been since the pandemic began. As Cummings admits, the government he once worked for adopted policies that led to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. This is one of the most shameful periods in modern British political history.

The revelations come at a time when there is growing and justified concern about the spread of new variants and the rise in new case numbers. These strains emerging globally can be more transmissable, or more severe or could even develop some degree of vaccine resistance. These are real risks.

We in the ZeroCovid Coalition and our many allies have repeatedly warned that vaccines are not a magic bullet, that allowing the virus to freely circulate was also allowing it to mutate and that a maximum suppression strategy was needed, as other countries have successfully implemented. Unfortunately, both the evidence of previous government failures and the risks in the current situation have proven that our warnings were correct and should have been heeded.

But it is not too late. Because case numbers have declined significantly from their peak, and because vaccines do have a strong positive effect, the additional effort to achieve Zero Covid in this country is much less than it was. As a minimum, a government following the data would postpone the June 21st reopening until the overall situation was clearer. The time should be used to correct all the failings of the current test, trace and isolate systems.

We should always have had a Zero Covid strategy to save lives. We still can.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
  • Claudia Webbe MP
  • Ramona McCartney – People’s Assembly
  • Deepti Gurdasani
  • Vicky van der Togt – Zero Covid Alliance
  • Helen O’Conner – GMB

Webinar: We need a People’s Vaccine – the fight for vaccine equality

Monday 24 May 2021, 6:30pm BST

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By blocking patent waivers and cutting foreign aid, rich countries are making us all unsafe. No one is safe until we are all safe!

Whilst cases are dropping in the UK, it is important that we remind ourselves of the shocking scenes around the world.

In India, the huge rise in cases has quickly overwhelmed the country. Severe overcrowding and an inadequate healthcare system have ensured that the death toll rises out of control . The government’s strategy, modelled on the failed strategy in the UK, has led to catastrophic results.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro slavishly followed the Trump model of complete disregard for the virus and took no decisive actions to protect the population. His outlandish claims that some unspecified superiority of his people would protect them has of course led to disaster.

These failings however, do not absolve richer countries of their part in this crisis. By allowing the virus to circulate in their countries they created dangerous mutations. It is widely reported that the mutation ravaging Delhi is UK grown, specifically the Kent variant.

Rich countries have also hampered, instead of helped these countries in their response to the pandemic. The US initially blocked the export of components to make vaccines and richer countries have blocked a patent waiver for vaccines, although some countries are now changing their mind.

Join us as we discuss the global struggle for medical equality, vaccine access for all and the ongoing need for a Zero Covid strategy.



Video: Defending those Hardest Hit in the Pandemic

On Tuesday 20 April 2021, 6:30pm, the Zero Covid Coalition hosted a webinar on how this pandemic has exposed and deepened those inequalities and how we can fight back. You can watch the video here:


  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (chair)
  • Diane Abbott MP
  • Claudia Webbe MP
  • Richard Burgon MP
  • Dr Deepti Gurdasani
  • Kevin Courtney – NEU General Secretary
  • Ian Hodson – BFAWU National President
  • Elane Heffernan – Zero Covid UK
  • Ramona McCartney – People’s Assembly Against Austerity
  • Andy Greene (DPAC)
  • Maciej Krzymieniecki (PCS)
  • Cat Hobbs (We Own It)
  • Larissa Kennedy (NUS)
  • Jenny Sherrard (UCU)
  • Zita Holbourne
  • Weyman Bennett (Stand Up to Racism)

Lobby your MP to support a Zero Covid strategy

Please use our MP lobbying tool to request your local MP to support Richard Burgon’s Early Day Motion calling for the government to adopt a Zero Covid strategy.

The text of the motion is as follows:

That this House notes with sadness that the UK has now had more than 100,000 covid-19 deaths, with one of the highest death rates in the world; further notes that the Government’s strategy to live with the virus and balance the loss of lives and the economy has led to failure on both counts with the UK also experiencing a particularly large economic downturn; recognises that in New Zealand, Vietnam and across countries following a Zero covid plan, the death rate is over a hundred times lower than in the UK and that their societies are reopening safely and their economies are recovering; recognises that, while covid-19 vaccines offer real hope and can be a key weapon in the battle against covid-19, it will be many months until everybody has been fully vaccinated; is concerned that if in the meantime the virus is allowed to circulate widely, many more will be infected with many more losing their lives, putting huge additional strain on the NHS, and risking further dangerous mutations of the virus; and calls on the UK Government urgently to adopt a Zero covid plan that seeks the maximum suppression of the virus as the best way to save lives and allow our communities and the economy to safely reopen.

Public meeting on 23 March: It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

March 23rd is the anniversary of our first UK lockdown in 2020. Despite the Covid-19 death toll approaching 130,000, the Prime Minister refuses to admit that things could have been different.

Scientists, including SAGE experts, expect cases to rise once more after the end of lockdown. The alternative remains a Zero Covid strategy. Other countries have suppressed the virus. Their lockdowns lasted weeks, not on/off for a year as in this country. We can still suppress the virus and calls for a #ZeroCovid strategy continue to grow.

Join us for an international event, where speakers from a number of countries will share their insights on the successes and failures of suppressing the virus.

Speakers include:

  • Diane Abbott MP
  • Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam
  • Professor Walter Ricciardia
  • Professor Aoife McLysaght
  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

The event takes place on Tuesday 23 March at 6:30pm GMT.

Register for free on Eventbrite.

Zero Covid campaign FAQs

What is ZeroCovid?

It is the policy aimed at eliminating the enormous number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths arising from Covid-19 in order to suppress the virus and move on, rather than face repeated cycles of infection and lockdown.

It means getting these down to extremely low numbers through stringent lockdown, and keeping them there with a fully effective test and trace system.  Where people are asked to self-isolate, they should be provided with all the necessary financial and other support they need.

Is ZeroCovid achievable?

Yes, a number of countries have achieved it.

But aren’t they mainly low-population islands?

Australia and New Zealand have both achieved it, that’s true.  But so have China, Viet Nam, Thailand and others, none of whom are low-population countries or islands.

Won’t ZeroCovid damage the economy, leading to job losses?

No. ZeroCovid is based on the strict lockdown of all non-essential work, plus proper testing, tracing and financially supported isolation.  If all of those are implemented, then the shutdown last weeks.  We have been lurching from lockdown to easing for almost a year, with huge loss of jobs and business failures. Other countries implementing ZeroCovid are well into economic recovery.

What about the policy impact on workers?

Only non-essential workers should be kept at homes.  Clearly, many transport, telecoms, post workers are essential, along with everyone in key manufacturing sectors, such as food, medicines and pharmaceuticals, as well their distribution and retail industries.  Everyone else should receive full pay for the weeks they are in lockdown.

Is it affordable?

The government has already spent well over £300 billion on bail-outs.  It will spend more as the effects of the virus drag on.  It is cheaper to have an effective lockdown and Zero Covid policy. Full furlough support, on 100% rather than 80% is a tiny marginal cost.

What about the vaccines?

Vaccines are a great tool, if administered properly. But they are not a magic bullet. Vaccinated people can still contract the virus and transmit it.  Vaccines themselves cannot allow a return to the status quo before the pandemic.  We need to eliminate the virus, as other countries have successfully done.

Diane Abbott: Vaccines are part of a zero-Covid strategy, not a substitute for it

NB. This article first appeared in the Morning Star.

THE pace of the roll-out of the vaccination programme in this country is impressive.

It shows how the existing NHS infrastructure is efficient and effective.

But ministers and the government-supporting media go too far when they suggest that a vaccination is all that is required. That is incorrect.

Worse, there is a real risk that this PR around the vaccines provides a false sense of security, along with the risk that all the previous errors around lockdowns will be repeated.

As Independent Sage says, “Vaccines are not a silver bullet.”

The overwhelming majority of people who have received a vaccine dose report how speedy and efficient the process was.

The obvious contrast here is with the shambolic test, trace and isolate programme.

Ministers try to insist it is “NHS test and trace” but that is simply untrue.

We know that billions of pounds have been directed away from the NHS (which had always planned for a response to a pandemic) towards private-sector firms such as Serco, Deloitte and many others.

Their shambolic operation is a disgrace, with failures at every level characterising the whole system.

It is right to celebrate the achievement of the NHS in the administering of vaccines (although even here the government cannot resist an attack on GPs for not working seven days a week, and setting themselves up for potential burnout).

At the time of writing almost 10.5 million people have received a single jab.

But only half a million people have received the authorised two doses, and it is not clear whether these have all taken place within the licensed three weeks.

This single-dose strategy is almost unique to this government. It is opposed by the manufacturers, the British Medical Association and the World Health Organisation.

It is clearly a risk. Because there is no evidence based on trials which lengthen the time between doses to 12 weeks, we cannot know if this is a reckless and counter-productive approach, or whether the outcome will be a benign one.

For example, some scientists have suggested that the delay could allow the greater mutation of the virus, including the risk of vaccine resistance.

But because this is an experiment on the population, we will only find out as the evidence of the real world accumulates.

Under these circumstances it is undeniably reckless for the government to talk of easing restrictions.

Yet it seems clear that ministers have set their sights on schools reopening on March 8.

There should never be dates set for a policy response to a pandemic, whose spread accelerates or decelerates according to changes in conditions in society and is not ruled by the calendar.

Instead, there should be precise targets about new cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

In particular, these should be related to an objective assessment of the capacity of the NHS to cope with new cases as well as resume its ordinary work, and an assessment of the test, trace and isolate system to ensure that new case numbers are at a low enough level which can be easily suppressed.

That alone would require a complete transformation of the current system, and its replacement with an integrated NHS and local authority system and the removal of the useless private-sector companies that have received so much wasted public money.

In addition, proper financial support should be provided if we are demanding that people self-isolate, with guaranteed incomes based on the living wage.

Yet if the government has its way, schools will reopen in England on March 8 as a prelude to a complete easing of restrictions.

At the current impressive rate of vaccination that could mean another 10 million people could have received their first dose, for a total of well over 20 million.

But this would still be less than one-third of the population that had received just one jab.

That cannot possibly be the basis for yet another premature reopening of schools and workplaces.

We should also be clear why there is this rush to reopen schools.

As former Tory chief whip Mark Harper makes clear, the party that trebled tuition fees, abolished the education maintenance allowance and is still fighting against free school meals is not primarily concerned with the education or wellbeing of our youth.

It is the economic consequences of keeping schools closed that exercises the Tory back-bench Covid Research Group and others.

It is also implied that vaccines will stop infection and transmission. They are not designed to do that, and the manufacturers make no such claims.

This means that those receiving vaccines can still become infected and transmit the virus, even with the recommended two doses.

There are serious consequences from allowing the virus to circulate, even if some of the most vulnerable groups are partly protected.

More mutations become a risk, as does serious infection not leading to death, including long Covid.

Earlier this week there were two disturbing reports. One showed that elderly black and Asian people are only half as likely to have received a vaccine.

Another showed around 100 children a week are being hospitalised with a post-Covid condition, most of them black and Asian youngsters.

Almost no-one is being admitted to hospital currently unless their condition is very serious.

These are just two aspects of the very real human cost of the virus, beyond the statistics of cases and deaths.

It is reckless beyond belief to plan for easing restrictions under these circumstances.

A strategy to eliminate the virus is what is required, a zero-Covid strategy, and vaccines can be a useful tool in that.

But they cannot be an alternative. Elimination has occurred in many countries, and none did so with the aid of vaccine.

A strict lockdown of all non-essential work is needed to suppress the virus to minutely low levels, and a fully functioning test, trace and supported isolation system remains vitally necessary.

The risk is that the government, believing its own PR and bowing to the mistaken lobbying for business reopening, will again prematurely remove restrictions.

If that happens, a fourth wave of the virus is a real risk. A zero-Covid approach is needed to prevent that.