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Dominic Cummings explosive revelations on UK handling of pandemic

Dominic Cummings’ description of the inept response of the government sheds light on a complete lack of preparedness or planning.



10 Downing Street, OGL 3, via Wikimedia Commons

Dominic Cummings could be remembered for many things. One stand-out moment is his personal response to getting a positive Covid-19 test in April last year. Immediately putting his family in a car and driving, against all lockdown rules, from London to his second home in Durham was a shocking move. His premise being that his young child could have support from other family members should he and his wife become seriously ill. Both he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for his resignation following this blatant breach of rules. Both public opinion and to some extent public willingness to follow lockdown rules took a turn for the worse. 

Cummings had, in recent years, gained a reputation for being the Prime Minister’s chief advisor and strategist on Brexit, insisting the government had to move forward and “get Brexit done”. In the turbulent months that followed in 2020, a major political crisis that surprised many was the acrimonious departure of this Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister in November amid accusations that Cummings had briefed against the Prime Minister.

This morning Dominic Cummings has been answering a series of questions about the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic to the Commons Health and Social Care and Technology Committees. Although the statistics of over 127,000 Covid deaths since the start of the pandemic tell a story in themselves, the revelations made by Dominic Cummings today have been explosive to say the least.

No Plan B

Dominic Cummings’ description of the inept response of the government sheds light on a complete lack of preparedness or planning. He claimed that from July 2019 onwards, he was able to attend meetings and discuss pandemic plans and a risk register which considered threats such as the risk of bio-terrorism. In his opinion these plans fell far short of what was required.

He also claimed that between January to mid-March, the government’s only plan, as advised by the Government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), was to get through the pandemic by achieving ‘herd immunity’. This plan gave a realistic estimate of 400,000 deaths in the UK. He also claimed the modelling being used from January until around April showed that the ‘peak’ of the pandemic would be reached in June. This gave those in government a false sense that there was plenty of time to make decisions. 

By mid-March however, the realisation dawned that although the economic and other effects of having a lockdown were serious, (the Prime Minister’s biggest concern being the damage to the economy), not having a lockdown was worse. It was believed by SAGE and the government that a lockdown would only temporarily suppress Covid-19 and that an even bigger peak would result later on in the winter. 

Plan B was suggested in March by experts (including the Cabinet Secretary Mark Warner and others) that flattening the curve in anyway would prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. By this time Covid-19 had spread much more than expected and only by the end of April did the NHS use its expert resources to produce real time data showing hospital admissions and deaths. One of the biggest mistakes made early on by the government, according to Cummings, was the decision to stop testing the population. Had the government adopted a South Korean style response, with border closures, mass testing, isolation of individuals and families with Covid-19 and face coverings, the picture could have been much better.

Accusations against the Department of Health

Dominic Cummings has not spared his words when speaking about the Health Secretary. He claimed that the Health Secretary repeatedly lied to the public and government and should have been sacked. 

Government in Chaos

The most startling revelation for many is Dominic Cummings’ claimed that the main reason for delay in going into lockdown in March was the fact that the government had no plan. This situation was exacerbated by the Prime Minister himself becoming seriously ill with Covid. Cummings has also blasted a system in which he has saidIt’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there (Number 10), just the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there, and that the choice at the last election was Jeremy Corbyn…There’s so many thousands and thousands of wonderful people in this country who could provide better leadership than either of those two.”

Media Briefings

Cummings has been questioned about whether he gave the media unauthorised briefings. His response was that once in government he gave very few briefings to the press but did give some of around one hour a week, in particular, to Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC. 

The Select Committee will resume its questioning of Dominic Cummings after lunch. 

Afternoon Update:

Durham Visit during Lockdown
Mr Cummings has stated that this afternoon that the real reason for his trip to Durham in April was that he and his family had received death threats for which reason they left London.
Prime Minister’s Questions
During PMQs today, the Prime Minister has categorically denied that the said that he would rather see bodies pile up than have a third lockdown as alleged by Mr Cummings this morning.
Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman responds
“At all times the Prime Minister and the Health and Care Secretary have been working closely to protect public health during the pandemic, that’s been the case throughout and continues to be so.”4



All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Shakoor Ahmed has worked in a number of roles in Education and is a qualified Teacher, Coach and Mentor..


Mice plague ravaging regional Australia



Regional Australia has had it tough for the past few years. From Australia’s worst drought on record to the worst bushfires on record to the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu post-WWI, you wouldn’t for one second think the livelihoods of regional and rural Australians could get any worse – except they have. Now a mice plague is ravaging farmers’ crops across the country with the eastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC) copping it the hardest. The southern part of Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA) are also suffering from mice plagues, but nowhere as severe as NSW or VIC. 

A March update from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) estimated that NSW’s mice plague has the highest density at 450 mice per hectare. One of the reasons cited for such a high mice population is the drought from 2017 to 2020 bringing dry conditions, which mice thrive in. Then came the La Nina weather pattern bringing with it wet summers and a higher likelihood of cyclones, and the mice bred through all that. This causes enormous damage to farmers’ crops with the NSW Farmers association fearing up to AUD 1 billion of lost winter crop 

Fortunately for residents living in the metropolitan cities, the plague is unlikely to invade them as the distance is simply too far given they weigh “about 13 grams and they’ve got very little legs” explained CSIRO’s mouse expert Steve Henry. Numerous methods have been deployed to prevent it ranging from farmers setting alight mice-infested farm equipment to introducing barn owls to eat up the mice. Now the fanciest but most contentious method seems to be using poisonous mice baits with different products using different chemicals. Recently the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority gave bait manufacturers permission “allowing the concentration of zinc phosphide in bait to be increased from 25 to 50 milligrams per kilogram” making it twice as lethal.

This is where it gets interesting. Farmers are ecstatic about using double strength poison, conservationists are worried how different poisons will affect the food chain, fishermen are in awe with the mice making their Murray cod bloated and environmental activists are urging farmers to spare the mice, as apparently “they shouldn’t be robbed of that right [to survive] because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy”. 

The poison granted permission for doubling its potency is the zinc phosphide bait. The poison coated on wheat aim to be 50% more lethal than the original bait hoping to stem the financial losses farmers have already faced with some farmers already losing AUD 250,000 worth of grain and fodder storage. The health effects are just as severe with at least three patients in regional hospitals bitten while being treated for non-mice related reasons and the smell the rodents leave behind is a disaster of its own.

Another alternative poison touted is the bromadiolone poison, which the NSW government reckons will help bring the plague to the end. The source of contention with this poison is its effect on the food chain. Ever since bloated Murray cod were found with as many as 10 mice inside, fishermen and conservationists have raised fears bromadiolone could harm native species such as the Murray and other scavengers such as farm animals if they feed off mice poisoned with it. The sticking point is bromadiolone “takes 100 to 200 days to fight down in the gut” unlike zinc phosphide which breaks down into phosphide gas in 24 hours.

Probably the most twisted part is an environmental activist group urging farmers not to kill the mice, arguing it is inhumane and the mice are not at fault simply for being hungry. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argued that the mice are ‘bright, curious animals are just looking for food to survive’. This prompted outrage from both the deputy premier of NSW John Barilaro and the deputy prime minister Michael McCormack – both representing conservative-leaning regional electorates – with the former saying he would not “entertain PETA’s ridiculous concerns” and the latter claiming “the only good mouse is a dead mouse”.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Families with loved ones in India ‘fighting two pandemics’ in Canada

The crisis abroad has residents of a hard-hit region near Toronto scrambling to find oxygen for their families while trying to stay protected from Covid-19



When her uncle in India got Covid-19 more than a month ago, thousands of miles away in Canada, Niharika Singh was “frantic.” 

There was no space in the local hospital and limited oxygen, spurring the family of 34-year-old Singh in Brampton, to start hunting for oxygen remotely.

“We were trying to reach out to all our sources… to see if somebody knew someone who could get us oxygen,” she said, noting her family also donated to relief organisations to help others in need. 

In two days, they got an oxygen concentrator, which filters oxygen in the surrounding air. Despite concentrators not storing their own oxygen supply like a cylinder does, Singh’s family took the offer and arranged for a relative in India to pick it up.

Eventually, her uncle got a bed in a distant hospital, where doctors said the infection had spread to his lungs. Although he became stable after a few days, he didn’t make it in the end. He was 52.

Singh’s story is one of many among residents in the southern pocket of Ontario, Canada’s most populated province. 

Brampton sits within Peel Region alongside municipalities Mississauga and Caledon. Home to 1.5 million residents, the region was particularly hard hit by Covid-19 with much of its population working essential jobs and living in multigenerational households. A large proportion of Peel residents are South Asian. 

“Fighting two pandemics”

With the risk of catching Covid locally coupled with concerns for loved ones back home, some say Peel residents are “fighting two pandemics.”

Stats show that while about 32% of the local population is South Asian, that group accounted for nearly 60% of Covid-19 cases in the region.

“Our communities here are so deeply impacted,” said Sabina Vohra-Miller, co-founder of the South Asian Health Network, which launched during the pandemic to improve access to health education and advocate for South Asian communities.

A Mississauga resident with a background in pharmacology, Vohra-Miller has been a strong advocate for Peel during the pandemic. By night, she’s advocating for those back home. 

“It’s not just physically exhausting, but it’s mentally draining,” said Vohra-Miller, who co-launched a foundation in 2020 promoting equity in health care. “Everything just feels so hopeless.” 

Her own father was visiting from India when the pandemic started, interrupting his plans to return. He’s on the phone daily with loved ones, getting real-time updates on the situation abroad, Vohra-Miller said, noting he recently lost three close friends in Delhi in a single week.

“People have stopped talking about it,” she said. “The tragedy continues.”

Coping with loss in Canada

The climbing death toll and crisis in India’s health-care system left Brampton couple Satvinder and Harpreet Bhatia scarred.

Like Singh’s family, the Bhatias also searched for medical supplies to help Harpreet’s aunt, who was on a ventilator while her husband and son were also hospitalised. 

Harpreet’s aunt died in May while her husband was in the ICU. She was cremated before her husband could say goodbye.

“I have so much anguish,” said Satvinder, 45. “When you say final goodbyes, most of the pain in your heart goes away … With Covid, we can’t go to the funeral.”

Brampton City Councillor Harkirat Singh said he’s heard lots of concerns from local families about their loved ones abroad dealing with long-term effects of Covid or who’ve died. It’s common for seniors to visit India during winter, he noted, which has left some stuck there when Canada blocked travel.  

Their children in Canada are “so stressed out here that first of all, they’re working essential jobs, and secondly, they’re worried about their parents,” the councillor said.

He added that he’s seen people in India asking for oxygen on Twitter. 

“That’s just how desperate people are,” Singh said.

The councillor brought the issue to city council which led Brampton’s mayor to write to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford to extend support to India. 

“More supplies and aid definitely need to be provided,” Singh said, noting case and death counts in India are not reliable. “Nobody knows the degree of their underreporting.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Female mental health and job performance

Society as a whole is moving towards an acceptance and discussion of mental health issues



Tatiana from Moscow, Russia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of – or so the traditional rhyme informs us. This simple ditty reveals an engrained truth of many societies: women must be ‘all things nice’. Exactly what this entails may differ over location and time but nevertheless, the notion of the compliant and smiling woman, coping with the unmentioned challenges of life remains at the heart of how societies perceive women. Women in the spotlight must also comply with these deeply-embedded norms. Furthermore, these women must also strive to look good while doing so.

The female beauty and fashion industries for example are worth trillions of pounds to the economy. In 2019 the global fashion industry generated £2tn with £30bn in the UK alone. Forbes also predicts that the global beauty industry will grow to $800bn annually by 2025. Women are expected to look good and behave nicely by being held to a standard many men barely even acknowledge in their own lives. And their pain, particularly pain from mental health issues, should be shadowed in silence and hidden beneath the veneer of perfection that the public must see. Often the appearance of famous women must be upheld despite their mental anguish.

Society as a whole is moving towards an acceptance and discussion of mental health issues. Both men and women in the past have been restricted by an intolerant understanding of how mental health impacts individuals, but in recent years, wellbeing, mindfulness and mental health first aid have made breakthroughs into mainstream consciousness – in fact, even into the curriculums of many schools. Yet, misunderstanding and mishandling still persists.

The most recent example of how far we still have to go is of Naomi Osaka. Naomi Osaka has proven her dedication and commitment to Tennis since winning her first Grand Slam in 2018 at the young age of 20. But even her very first victory was entwined with the bitter taste of media attention and harsh judgement. On what should have been her crowning moment, she was surrounded by a booing crowd, shedding tears for the world to witness. What should have been a celebratory victory became a traumatic experience. 

This week, Osaka took the brave step of refusing to participate in media interviews at the French Open. This was based, not on a petulant reaction, but on proven experience that the media have asked intrusive questions to female tennis players in the past. The media love an emotional reaction, they revel in tears shed and failures performed on a public court. Osaka, still only 23, took a stand this week and decided to prioritise her own mental health above the insatiable need for the press to report on all aspects of her emotional journey. 

This was a moment where Roland Garros could have chosen to show that they comprehend mental health and have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the stars, who ultimately generate their income. After a year of lockdowns which have impacted the mental health of so many, this was a moment to lead by example and show a duty of concern and care. Unfortunately, that moment was not seized. Rather than coming to a compromise, or even offering professional treatment and support, Roland Garros decided instead to fine Osaka $15,000 and to tweet a snarky and dismissive tweet – swiftly deleted – belittling her concerns and needs

We are often told that mental health should be spoken about without stigma, that it should be discussed in a similar manner to physical health. Clearly, the actions of the French Tennis Association show that this is in fact very far from the case. Their tweet attempted to not only shame Osaka but also to imply that she did not understand her assignment. Being the World Number two, as well as one of the highest paid female athletes in the world, this is clearly very far from the truth. 

Perhaps the reality is that she very much did understand the assignment. From past experience she knew that intrusive questions designed to dissect her every movement on court and relive every miss step of missed ball were not necessary for her success. She has proven that she has the capability to win. There is no doubt about her physical ability. Osaka made a conscious choice: to remove herself from a situation which she believed would cause her harm. 

This is not a decision which should be ridiculed or mocked by those who hold her payment in their hands. It is a brave and courageous decision to speak out about and reveal her personal struggles. The authorities could have made alterations to the time, location or questions involved. They could have shown industries around the world how to respond to the mental health of their workers and set an example to follow. Instead, their high-handed approach resulted in Osaka withdrawing altogether.

Women, especially young women, have learnt that they don’t have to sacrifice their own health to be ‘nice’; that they have agency to make their own choices. Roland Garros may feel that they have punished a wayward player who refused to comply with their rules. The reality is that Osaka, with her actions and words on Twitter, has blazed a trail for millions of women around the globe. They too can prioritise their own health and are not compelled to perform for the public on demand.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

A teacher, mother and radio presenter. Is interested in education, equality and community relations. Currently living in London.

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Lockdowns hurt child speech and language skills



Unfortunately lockdowns have taken children across the UK away from their language and socially-rich environments and consequently, children have fallen behind with their speech and language skills. In my profession of Speech and Language Therapy, The Royal College of Speech Language Therapy (RCSLT) reported the negative impact on those with speech, language and also swallowing difficulties this year. 

A survey undertaken by the RCSLT of adults, worryingly also showed a reduction during the March-June 2020 lockdown of over half of people accessing speech and language therapy. A large amount of appointments were reportedly cancelled by speech and language services. The survey for those aged 0-18 years shows this age group was impacted the hardest, with 81% of people seeing a decrease in their speech and language therapy service. For clients under 18 only 12% of clients received therapy after the March 2020 lockdown, leading to deficits. 

With face-to-face services unable to be delivered, what our clients were left with was virtual therapy, which was hard to access. There are several known factors that resulted in lockdown constraints; a strain on home broadband connection, no laptop or having to focus on homeschooling. 

In the March 2020 lockdown, I was still able to deliver services virtually to my primary school age clients, however only a small amount were able to attend virtually, due to lockdown constraints. Those that attended were regular, however some families did not return phone calls and some attended one session and then swiftly became no-shows.

Due to these constraints, our senior speech therapist team lead decided to discourage articulation therapy which focuses on the accuracy of our speech sounds. This therapy involves the use of visual and verbal feedback. It also entails physical contact, for example conducting an exam of the vocal tract to summarise its physical features and effect on speech. We were also discouraged from virtual therapy with reception to year 5 clients unless there was parental involvement. This was due to the fact that it was difficult to engage this age group in online therapy. Therapy entails preparation prior to the session, activities during the sesson and homework following the session, all of which are challenging tasks without an engaged parent. The therapist’s virtual time was given to those that were willing, and the remaining work time was allocated to developing new programmes, or writing annual review reports. 

The second lockdown showed some important changes. At this point I had changed roles from primary school to ‘birth to 5 years old’, and as a therapist, my process of assessment, therapy or gathering case history had adapted to the virtual world much better. Families were more acquainted with what to do, and many on my caseload kept their appointments. The other difference was face-to-face interaction was allowed in some cases with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which involved an apron, gloves and a mask. Further in January 2021, therapists were expected to resume face-to-face work mainly in day care centres, which were open. 

I made another personal switch at this point, to leave this role. I was now concentrating on another role: as a therapist in a special needs college for students with complex special education needs. College was not open at this date and our work was virtual. There was low engagement from my total caseload, and issues cited by families included difficulty making the therapy appointment time, online college classes, students unwilling to engage on Zoom/Team, etc. Again, my work time was dedicated to training and programme development, and annual review reports. At least, I was able to liaise with teachers, if not families and students.

What the RCSLT report shows is that lockdowns did hurt speech and language skills, and not just for children. All those accessing special education needs are behind and the RCSLT proposes a comprehensive build-back plan, citing speech and language as a basic human right. A BBC report also discusses the issue of our children falling behind. One of the concerns is the deficit in social skill development of under five year olds due to reduced communication opportunities. This is a valid concern, as speech and language difficulties have an impact on social development and mental health. Here are some statistics to fully highlight and digest this point. Children with a mental health disorder are five times more likely to have a speech and language problem. This shows that early deficits have negative impacts on development in the long term. What’s more, the RCSLT has also highlighted the socio-economic inequalities in the United Kingdom. The most deprived areas received the least access to speech and language services, during and after lockdown.

However, in all of my roles, when parents were involved, the positive results that I witnessed were: increased one-on-one time with the parent, listening to their interaction with their child, and hearing their anecdotes of what they had done that day. This was an invaluable experience. Another positive result of this situation was, if the parents were available during the session it was a chance to show them therapy techniques. This is called ‘modelling’ and exposes the client and the client’s family to strategies to increase communication. This is an opportunity for speech and language education for the family. Going forward, this should be maximised to improve speech and language outcomes. What we don’t want to see is families going backwards in terms of engagement and education, as well as societal inequalities, and unnecessary funding cuts to education. In fact, due to the long term effects on human development, the government must continue to invest in education across the board, including speech and language services. If they don’t, the costs to our nation’s population and our future generation will be too high.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Why are Americans hesitant to get vaccinated?

While poorer countries are desperate to get their hands on vaccines, Americans are refusing to get vaccinated.



Marco Verch Professional Photographer, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

I have been going to the same grocery store for more than a decade now and I enjoy some small talk with the workers I know there. This past weekend, I asked a gentleman a common question we ask these days, “Did you get the vaccine?” To my surprise, the answer was, “No, and I don’t plan to get it.”

I live in a moderately liberal leaning area and the negative response from a front-line worker was a bit shocking. I realised that even more people around me may hold the same opinion and that maybe the Covid-19 era could last a little longer than what I hoped. 

The US is one of the most fortunate countries in the world with an abundance of vaccines. While poorer countries are desperate to get their hands on vaccines, Americans are refusing to get vaccinated. More vaccines mean more hope for returning back to normalcy; however, a good number of Americans are staying away from vaccines. Is the resistance due to boastfulness or mere ignorance?

A daily Facebook survey initially indicated that 70% of Americans would take the vaccination. The same survey now reports that number to be 67%. The Biden administration initially anticipated vaccine resistance largely from conservative states where the Covid-19 remained a highly political issue throughout the previous year. The assumption that conservatives are the primary demographic refusing the vaccine did not hold for long, as vaccine sceptics belong to all demographics. According to the New York Post survey, 14% of Americans are Covid-19 sceptics, 4% are system distrusters, 9% are cost conscious while 8% are watchful. According to the latest data (as of May 2021), 45% of American adults are fully vaccinated. Even if only 20% of Americans refuse vaccination, the goal of achieving herd immunity cannot be achieved and the virus can mutate into new variants resistant to vaccines.

Minority communities are getting vaccinated at a much slower rate than the rest of the country. Out of the total number of first dose recipients, only 5.4% were Black Americans. Fear, doubt and mistrust are some of the many contributing factors. The dark history of the US Healthcare system exploiting minorities to test vaccines are too vivid in the older populations. The infamous 1932 Tuskegee Study was carried out on male Black Americans to test the efficacy of Syphilis vaccinations, promising uneducated participants a treatment for bad blood in exchange for free medical exams, medical treatment and burial costs. However, participants of the study were denied treatment when Penicillin, the primary drug to treat Syphilis, became widely available.  Digital vaccine registration systems, poor healthcare services, absence of transportation infrastructure, and lack of community outreach are keeping minorities from being vaccinated. 

For Hispanic and Latino communities, an additional hesitancy factor is immigration status. Families are hesitant to get vaccines due to the inherent fear of documentation. The Biden administration has stated that getting a vaccine will not result in change of immigration status. Whether this information is reaching the community or is held to be true by the community, is yet to reflected in vaccine numbers.

Many Evangelic Christians are also adamantly refusing vaccines. About 28% of white male adults who identify as Evangelical Christians said they definitely will not get a vaccine. In staunch evangelical churches, pastors are equating vaccination to an unchristian act and validating the widely held belief that vaccinations are a blood contamination movement by the liberal corporate America. Several notable Christian websites are asking people to opt out of the vaccine as it is a garb for making financial profits at the cost of human life and faith. This is no surprise as the US is one of a few countries where parents and individuals can opt-out of vaccination requirements due to religious beliefs. However, campaigns like ‘Christians and the Vaccine Project’ are attempting to shift the mindset based on the Christian teaching, ‘if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for others.’

As the issue of whether to wear a mask indoors or outdoors or not at all is getting more complex, both liberal and conservative states and businesses are bribing citizens to get vaccinated by offering saving bonds, lottery tickets, free beer and even trivial offerings such as free donuts. Surprisingly, in some states, these offers are working with young adults just like any other American BOGO (Buy-One-Get-One Free) offer. Vaccination camps are popping up on beaches, subways, sports arenas, all promising a chance to enjoy life as it was before. However, with all the scepticism and vaccination divide, the task of getting a shot in every arm is still looking like an uphill battle. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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The role of capitalism in the emergence of infectious diseases

Economic thinking influences health policy and how global health agencies react to health issues.



In today’s world, health cannot just be associated with individual genetics or behaviour. Rather it is shaped and structurally determined by the environment that people are living in. Climate change refers to long-term shifts in weather conditions and patterns of extreme weather events. It may lead to changes in health and threats to human beings; multiplying existing health problems. Evidence across the literature suggests that the impact of climate change on humans, leads to the emergence of infectious diseases and human beings acting as active agents are adapting to these changing patterns. For example, the current ongoing coronavirus has changed our daily lifestyle and how we work, learn and interact with other people. 

Economic thinking influences health policy and how global health agencies react to health issues. Concretely, when neoliberalism, which “emphasizes the value of free market competition”, has come to dominate global health governance and policy making, it also makes the political economy of health as important as understanding individual behaviour and risk factors. This, therefore, in return allows us to question where responsibility for our health and the health of others lies. Furthermore, it opens critiques of individualising approaches to health policy characterized especially by neoliberal approaches to health. It is evident that the recent outbreak of animal-borne infectious disease was triggered by increased environmental and ecological changes. Therefore, do the patterns of the infectious outbreak suggest that capitalism plays a role in the emergence of infectious diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola, and HIV/AIDS?

As the world is increasingly becoming industrialised, it not only affects the economic sector but also has effects on the global healthcare system. The capitalist growth-oriented activities are destroying the habitats of animals which is bringing animals into close contact with people. Due to large scale infrastructural development, land clearing and processes like livestock farming, mines, extractive industries and effects of urbanization etc. ultimately allow certain types of animals to thrive and put them in close contact with humans. The ongoing rapid environmental changes also have severe impacts and thus make it likely for infectious diseases to emerge. 

Over the last 50 years, the increase in economic and industrial activities have led to an unprecedented effect on air, land and water environments, and the resulting changes have important and wide ranging implication for human health. Extreme weather conditions and the rise in global warming are associated with the emergence of infectious diseases. Furthermore, socioeconomic processes such as capitalist developments are tied to the emergence of zoonotic diseases (an infectious disease that is transmitted between species from animals to humans). The intensification of the unsustainable use of natural resources and the increase in agriculture has led to the exploitation of wildlife. Another key driver of the emergence of infectious disease is the increased human dependence and demand on animal protein. Thus, in order to meet the demand, it is profitable for industries to raise animals in factories where they are jammed together. This thus allows viruses to grow and mutate and to transfer from species to species.

The global wildlife trade is another contributor to the emergence of infectious diseases for example, Avian influenza, Plague, Ebola, and Covid-19. Wild mammals, reptiles and birds that flow through wildlife trading markets are in close contact with humans and other species, this mechanism makes disease transmission into humans that much more inevitable. The selling of wild plants for herbal medicines or the trade of wild animals as pets or food makes it more likely for diseases to be in contact with human beings.

Another factor is that the casualised labour force and the zero-hour contracts largely shapes people’s behaviour with respect to their own health and to wider public health measures. Britain’s gig economy has more than doubled over the past three years and now accounts for some 4.7 million workers. These workers are often unregulated and have a flexible-hours contract without any job security and labour rights – which make them quite vulnerable because they face immense uncertainty and deprivation. This makes it hard for people especially those who are employed with little or no sick-pay leave and for those who cannot work from home to rely on these systems in order to feed themselves and their families. Hence for the gig economy workers, no work is equivalent to no income. 

Therefore, the choices that are influenced by these systems, for example, to keep working even in difficult situations and continue to work in a dangerous situation are different from those who work in an office job and have certain privileges. This means that even if they catch an infectious disease, they might still continue working after developing the symptoms – simply to survive. Thus, the way that system is structured can further exacerbate infectious diseases and can have impacts on both the individual and the wider public health. Further, the discussion on who is ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ or importantly who is required to keep working and keep the economy functioning informs a lot about what we value as a society and how we collectively respond to public health crises like Covid-19. 

So, it is clear that extractive capitalism is bringing us into more contact with animals and that, in turn, makes the outbreak of diseases like coronavirus, more likely. Thus, global capitalism impacts biodiversity as these animals suffer the loss of their natural habitats and the loss of biodiversity then, in turn, increases the risk of zoonotic diseases. Therefore, it is hard to ignore that human and animal contact is inevitable and the ways in which the economy functions, both puts peoples’ lives at risk and has severe health issues and also shapes the way we respond to health issues.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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