The fight against pandemics can only be won with free, universal, public health care

DiEM25 Coordinating Collective
13/03/2020, Articles
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When everybody is in danger, nobody is safe: this is the first lesson the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us, or better, reminded us of: that health is more than anything else, a common good.

The COVID-19 pandemic proves just how important public healthcare systems, and the services they provide, are for the well-being of populations across the world.

It also spectacularly illustrates how the neoliberal politics of austerity and its fiscal policies in particular, not only seriously damage the health of the people but also kill the most vulnerable.

The private sector gains by providing economically rewarding cures and assigning the costly ones, like emergency services or intensive care, to public health facilities which, after years of “starve the beast” policies, have become incredibly under-funded.

The pandemic also demonstrates, in the most dramatic manner, the meaning of the word “equal”: that primary care for all should be humanity’s first concern, and equal access to free, public and good-quality care is not simply a moral call, but a necessity for the whole community.

Yet the pandemic also teaches us the meaning of words like cooperation and solidarity: that no individual, and no country, can save its own skin alone, because both face COVID-19 and its dire economic and social consequences.

In moments like these we see the magnificence of public and universal healthcare systems and the uselessness and inefficiency of the private health sector, which, by trading in health services, has downright supplanted and undermined national health services.

Now, more than ever, public and universal healthcare systems have to be supported and reinforced, or implemented in countries that do not yet have them, such as the USA.

DiEM25’s response to the pandemic that has so-far killed  5,120 people across the world (962 Europeans, while 23.672 have been afflicted) is to call for a public healthcare system for all countries and their residents, irrespective of citizenship, and for the demise of private health services that neoliberal policies of austerity and the shrinking of the public sector have imposed. Health as a public good for all people is the value that has to be urgently protected and promoted.

The pandemic has exposed the ugly face of neoliberalism, the privatisation of health services to the benefit of capital, which has imposed a biopolitical model of death worldwide. As with plagues that ravaged populations in the Middle Ages, the coronavirus (even if, luckily, not as deadly as the plague) does not spare anybody because it does not discriminate against people on the basis of class, wealth, religion, etc.

To this end, DiEM25 will fight for the introduction, reinforcement and/or restoration of public and universal healthcare for all, and support all political leaders who are fighting for it. At the same time, DiEM25 condemns the EU establishment for its inane response to the pandemic, its inefficiency in taking adequate fiscal measures and the lack of investment in public healthcare systems.

Their criminal indifference and paralysis is the same as the one exhibited during the financial crash of 2007-2008 and the subsequent Eurocrisis in 2010. DiEM25 claims that the right of people to basic goods and services, and to the uppermost value of life — a decent life — goes hand in hand with a new democratic and socially just Europe, without which basic human rights and lives would be fatally jeopardised.

In these dire times, when our elders and the most vulnerable members of our societies — including the unemployed, homeless, poor and refugees – need our full support to overcome the following weeks and months, DiEM25 is calling not only for serious reflection on the crisis of global capitalism, but also for resolute action in protecting or enabling public and universal healthcare as a crucial part of democracy and equality — and as an indispensable response to global pandemics.

Here’s Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25 co-founder and MeRA25 Secretary General and MP, in the Greek Parliament on the “Prevention, protection and promotion of health – Development of public health services”, MeRA25’s Proposal for 7 + 1 measures to support the economy in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And here’s a separate contribution just about the economic and political impact:

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