Since the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday declared the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of COVID-19 to be a “variant of concern,” governments around the world have essentially failed to respond with any action to address it. stop its global spread, except for limited travel restrictions. . As of Sunday evening, 159 cases of the Omicron variant had been sequenced on all habitable continents except South America.
Much remains unknown about the variant, but early data from southern Africa indicates that it is likely more transmissible than the Delta variant, which itself is much more transmissible than the wild type of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In South Africa’s Gauteng province, where most cases of Omicron have been detected, new hospitalizations have more than tripled in the past two weeks alone. Since the Omicron variant has more than 50 mutations, including 32 on the virus spike protein, many scientists have warned that it could be the most vaccine resistant variant to date.
Due to inadequate genomic sequencing programs in the United States, it is likely that the Omicron variant is already spreading undetected in the country. This coincides with a growing surge of the Delta variant, which has killed more than 165,000 Americans in the past four months and infected millions.
The rapid spread of the dangerous new variant has been met by requests from scientists for urgent measures to stop the spread of the disease.
But appearing on Sunday morning talk shows, Dr.Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, has rejected any lockdown measures, and even mask or vaccine warrants, to stop the spread of the Omicron variant and the pandemic more broadly.
Under conditions in which more than 414,000 Americans have been officially infected with the Delta variant over the past week, Fauci told ABC News it was “too early to tell” whether such measures would be necessary. Fauci has made it clear that the White House’s position is that nothing needs to be done until the Omicron variant has swept across the country.
As with the Trump administration throughout 2020, the Biden administration’s categorical opposition to implementing these measures is motivated solely by economic considerations. As word spread on Friday of the dangers of the Omicron variant, the stock markets suffered their biggest loss of the year. At the White House, talks aren’t about saving lives, but rather what will happen on Wall Street on Monday and how best to delay any action until the end of the Christmas shopping season.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Fauci said in the strongest terms that the Biden administration opposes any attempt to eliminate or eradicate COVID-19. Asked by host Chuck Todd, “Is it clear enough that it is now endemic [sic]? I mean, how does it end otherwise? Fauci replied: “You know, we are definitely not going to eradicate it. We have only eradicated one virus, and that is smallpox. Elimination means there is nothing at all. this in the country, like we have now with polio and measles, I don’t think we’ll be there with that.
Fauci agreed with Todd that the virus would become “endemic” and reiterated the Biden administration’s unscientific mantra that vaccinations alone will reduce infections and deaths to an “acceptable” level. “It’s not going to go away,” he said. “The lower we get it, the better off we’ll be. And you get it so low when you get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated and boosted. So, like I’ve said a few times, Chuck, it depends on our own understanding of how we’re going to be able to live with the virus. “
These statements and the Biden administration’s overall response to the Omicron variant have been strongly condemned by leading scientists. Dr Jorge Caballero, formerly of Stanford University, tweeted from the interview and commented, “I’ve seen enough. We need bold policy changes, and the current WH COVID Response team is not up to the task. “
Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984 and is a trusted representative of the American ruling class. Its explicit opposition to elimination and eradication is deliberately directed against the growing support for this strategy within the working class and among the most far-sighted scientists.
The elimination strategy, which has been constantly advocated by the World Socialist Website, involves the universal deployment of all public health measures, including mass testing, contact tracing, safe isolation of infected patients, use of high-quality masks, improved ventilation, travel restrictions , the rapid vaccination of the world’s population and the closure of all non-essential schools and workplaces with full income protection for all affected workers. The largest country to have successfully used this strategy is China, which has continuously eradicated minor epidemics in a population of more than 1.4 billion people since the effective elimination of the virus in March 2020.
The Biden administration’s overt opposition to this strategy is based on specific class interests. The American ruling class has openly adopted a homicidal policy which it knows will lead to an ongoing mass death. They accepted that a new, fully preventable cause of death has emerged, SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, which will continue to evolve and become more dangerous unless the virus is eliminated.
Significant sections of the ruling elite view the deaths of older workers and retirees from COVID-19 as a positive good. For years before the pandemic, calls grew to reduce the costs of pensions, social services and medical care by lowering life expectancy. The most explicit formulation of these goals was a 2014 article by Ezekiel Emanuel in Atlantic, entitled “Why I hope to die at 75”. The article was captioned: “An argument that society and families – and you – will be better off if nature takes its course quickly and quickly.” “
Emanuel, who briefly served on Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, is making his wish come true. In the pandemic’s first year alone, life expectancy fell by 2.2 years for adult males in the United States, the worst drop since official records began to be kept in 1933.
Either way, the Biden administration continued the pandemic policies of the Trump administration. After forcing open schools in major Democrat-run cities throughout the spring, Biden discouraged masks and social distancing and oversaw the end of the federal moratorium on evictions, while relying on the vaccines as a miracle solution to stop new infections. Delta’s surge in July proved this strategy to be entirely unsustainable, but the White House continued with the same vaccine-only approach, setting the stage for the current disaster.
The Biden administration’s overt opposition to COVID-19 elimination in the face of a deadly new wave of the pandemic demonstrates the imperviousness of capitalist governments around the world to demands from scientists and the public for the preservation of human life . The emergence of the Omicron variant demonstrates that those in power will continue to let the virus infect masses of people and mutate until the entire Greek alphabet is exhausted, with each new variant having catastrophic consequences.
Above all, the financial oligarchy is terrified that a movement is developing in the working class demanding blockades, like the wave of wildcat strikes that caused the initial blockades in March 2020. The closure of schools and non-essential workplaces, which could save millions of lives if conducted as part of a comprehensive phase-out strategy, would reduce the extraction of surplus value which is at the heart of the production process capitalist. Any impact on the personal wealth accumulation of billionaires, who have amassed more than $ 2 trillion since the start of the pandemic, cannot be tolerated.
Following the world’s leading scientists, the WSWS has continually warned that the only way to prevent the development of more dangerous variants such as the Omicron is to adopt a strategy to phase out the virus in each country until that all human-to-human transmission is affected. an end. The starting point of this strategy is a popular rejection of the policies that have been implemented to date, including “collective immunity” and the idea that “mitigation” policies – such as the use of vaccination alone – will end the pandemic.
By definition, there is no national solution to the pandemic. The fight to eliminate COVID-19 must be coordinated globally by the workers who take matters into their own hands. The guiding principle of this mass movement, which encompasses millions of workers, young people and progressive sections of the middle class, is that human lives must have absolute priority over corporate profits.
The fight to eliminate COVID-19 on a global scale requires the fullest exposure of the financial interests that have determined policies throughout the pandemic. For this reason, the global workers’ investigation into the COVID-19 pandemic called by the World Socialist Website is all the more critical and must be systematically developed in each country. The same policy-makers who killed an estimated 12 million people around the world are now threatening to unleash another wave of mass deaths across the globe. It must be stopped and those responsible must be held accountable.