COVID, Capitalism and the Battle for Life and Dignity in BC

Who do the new BC health restrictions really help?

Cam Loeschmann // Contributor  
Joyce Chan // Illustrator

The novel Coronavirus has had some interesting consequences in our late Capitalist landscape as of December 2020. 

On Nov. 19, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced a new mandate that ruled, among other things, that mask-wearing was mandatory in public, and private gatherings of any kind were banned.

At the end of May, BC’s COVID-19 levels were in the single digits, even as Eastern Canada and the whole of the United States were teeming with cases. However, when TransLink stopped blocking off every second seat on the bus and non-essential businesses were permitted to operate again, cases slowly started ticking upwards. Now, BC is setting new daily case records in December, and the spread is exponential.  

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are considered the least effective. Yet, PPE is the only thing keeping myself and my colleagues safe during the busiest season of the year. 

The Western holiday of Christmas will arrive shortly after I write this. Despite non-Christian holidays being cancelled or restricted worldwide, this is the first time “that one holiday” is being threatened—or, rather, a lot of plague lovers feel threatened that they might be prevented from celebrating Christmas. Of course, everyone knows that the only true way to get into the Christmas spirit is by going into a lot of small, enclosed spaces, touching many things, breathing on as many shop workers as possible, and spending money to buy gifts for people they don’t like. I, for one, have seen way too many people remove their masks, lick their fingers, and count out cash for me at my day job. 

For my school-mandated COVID-19 training, I received a handy little chart ranking the most effective ways to avoid the virus down to the least effective. Staying home and keeping two-metre distances from others are the safest methods. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are considered the least effective. Yet, PPE is the only thing keeping myself and my colleagues safe during the busiest season of the year. 

If anyone has been paying attention to how COVID-19 has exposed just how broken our capitalist system is, they know what is happening here. The wealth gap between the richest and the poorest is becoming a canyon. My customers—many of them upper-middle-class—can hop in their cars and choose to purchase in person. Cafes, shopping malls and restaurants are now some of the only places open for public gatherings, which coincidentally are places where one has to spend money to spend time. What happens to the people who cannot afford to spend that money? 

Where will my customers go to buy a $700 Hermes scarf, spill McChicken sauce on it, and get it dry cleaned?  

Some people choose to take the pandemic lightly. These are the folk who wear their masks below their noses. Who host birthday parties with twenty of their closest friends just because they miss them. My colleagues and I have no choice but to be in public. In order to pay our rent and buy food, we have to use public transit to go to a place where we see hundreds of people insisting on being within two-metres of us. Multinational corporations may get bailouts during this pandemic, but my rent cheque and I certainly don’t. I miss my friends, too.  

Just like parking laws and environmental regulations are only a dissuasion for those belonging to the 99 per cent, the people who suffer most from COVID-19 are the least able to prevent its transmission.  

In the next year and beyond, I wonder what the future holds. What will happen when all the healthcare workers, sanitation workers, restaurant workers, factory workers, bus drivers and mall Santas get sick because people got tired of being responsible? Where will my customers go to buy a $700 Hermes scarf, spill McChicken sauce on it, and get it dry cleaned? 

If you believe that health precautions do not apply to you, I invite you to take a long look in the mirror. This situation is much bigger than you, or me, or my partner whom I miss. Think of the nurses and doctors who have fought this disease with their gloved hands. Think too of the homeless in our communities, left exposed to the elements and the virus this winter. 

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