Compelling Quotations on Covid-19

A collection of quotes on the themes of labour, Covid-19, and capitalism.

““Some people will die of the virus. The rest of us will die of hunger.”

– Sanjay Sharma, Mumbai taxi driver[1]

“Right now when we are under lockdown, nobody is saying, ‘We need stockbrokers and investment bankers! Let’s keep those services open!’ They are saying, ‘Let’s keep nurses working, cleaners working, garbage removal services open, food production ongoing.”

–Tithi Bhattacharya[2]

Nicholas Christakis, sociologist and physician

“…Barbara Birchenough, sixty-five, worked at the Clara Maass Medical Center in New Jersey as a nurse. On March 25, she texted her daughter, The ICU nurses were making gowns out of garbage bags. Dad is going to pick up large garbage bags for me just in case. Later that day, she texted again to note that she had a cough and a headache and that she had been exposed to six patients who had tested positive for COVID-19. Please pray for all health care workers, she texted her daughter, we are running out of supplies. By April 15, she was dead from the disease.”

–Nicholas Christakis.[3]

“We’re not getting nothing … no cleanliness, no extra pay — no nothing. We’re up here risking our life for chicken.”

– Kendilyn Granville, line worker at a chicken plant, Georgia.[4]

“I didn’t sign up to die on my job.”

– Ontario nurse in March, 2020.[5]

“In recent weeks, lists have been published all over the world of what we’ve started calling ‘essential workers.’ And surprise: jobs like ‘hedge fund manager’ and ‘multinational tax consultant’ appear nowhere on those lists. All of a sudden, it has become crystal clear who’s doing the truly important work in care and in education, in public transit and in grocery stores.”

– Rutger Bregman.[6]

“In the worst night we had three deaths. Two were five minutes apart. There were two funeral homes outside with body bags. It was like a war zone. So why did we have to fight so hard (for PPE)?”

– long-term care home nurse in Ontario, March 2021.[7]

“If history shows us one thing, it’s that rich people and politicians do not want to pay for sewers, schools, hospitals, old age pensions or worker safety.”

– Ellen Amster.[8]

Michael Hurley, Regional Vice President of CUPE

“People reported they get into their car at the end of their shift, and they cry. They’re not crying for themselves because they were hit or insulted. They’re crying because they feel badly. They feel like they’re doing a shitty job. They’re not. They’re doing their best. But it’s an impossible task to provide care in an environment where there’s almost no staff.”

– Michael Hurley[9]

“Wealth, it turns out, is the best shielding strategy from Covid-19.”

– Dr. Devi Sridhar[10]

“All of  sudden, we went from being essential to being sacrificial, all for the sake of the bottom line.”

– Clerk at Giant Food, Washington, D.C.[11]

“The healthcare system has collapsed. Hospitals everywhere have been overflowing and, in many places, we have been forced to treat people on the streets.”

– ‘Sonia,’ nurse in Lima.[12]

“It’s become very clear to me what a socioeconomic disease this is. People hear that term ‘essential workers.’ Short-order cooks, doormen, cleaners, deli workers—that is the patient population here. Other people were at home, but my patients were still working. A few weeks ago, when they were told to socially isolate, they still had to go back to an apartment with ten other people. Now they are in our cardiac room dying.”

– Dr. Hashem Zikry, New York City.[13]

“In May 2020, as Boris Johnson and his wife attended a ‘work event’ where people were invited to bring alcohol, I was using alcohol of another kind. On my hands. They were raw, blistered and painful, but at least alcohol gel sterilises hands in between the constant flow of patients. Then there was my mask, which cut ridges so deep into my face they became sores.”

– Saleyha Ahsan[14]

Saleyha Ahsan, British MD

“The homeless are still homeless, care workers lack sufficient PPE, the old and poor are dying, but very few bankers are getting ill.”

– Tim Heffernan, Simon Schweitzer and Bill Hopwood[15]

“In the words of Melbourne-based journalist Luke Henriques-Gomes, “If the slogan of 2020 is ‘We’re all in this together’, perhaps it should come with an asterisk: *except for those with less, who are hurting more.”

– Luke Henriques-Gomes.[16]

“Right now, Amazon is a dictatorship within a democracy. Someday the democracy may wither, leaving only the dictatorship.”  

– Nathan Robinson.[17]

“The virus is not an equal-opportunity killer.”

– Tricontinental Institute for Social Research.[18]

“As one capitalist shibboleth after another was swept aside – ceilings on fiscal deficits, the lack of funds for improving employment insurance, the impracticality of conversion of closing factories, the glorification of corporate pursuit of profits over all else, the devaluation of workers who clean our hospitals and care for the aged – surely we were ripe for radical change?”

– Sam Gindin[19]

“Driven by the pursuit of unlimited production and consumption, the liberal ideal of freedom has become detached from the moral traditions that constrained mere licence.”

– Jonathan Rutherford[20]

“Pandemics are mirrors. They tell a society its status.”

– Rob Wallace, epidemiologist.[21]

[1] Utsa Sarmin, “Hunger, Humiliation, and Death: Perils of Migrant Workers in the Time of COVID-19,” pp. 48-55, in Samaddar Ranabir, ed., Borders of an Epidemic: Covid-19 and Migrant Workers (Kolkata: Calcutta Research Group, 2020), 55.

[2] Sarah Jaffe with Tithi Bhattacharya, “Social Reproduction and the Pandemic,” Dissent, 2 April 2020, Link to source.

[3] Nicholas A. Christakis, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live (New York, Boston and London: Little, Brown Spark, 2020), 223.

[4] Sandy Smith-Nonini and Olivia Paschal, “As COVID-19 Hit Georgia Meatpacking Counties, Officials and Industry Shifted Blame,” Facing South, 8 September 2020,  Link to source.

[5] Cited in Bruce Arthur, “‘I didn’t sign up to die on my job,’ Toronto Star, 30 March 2020, Link to source.

[6] Rutger Bregman, “The neoliberal era is ending. What comes next?,” The Correspondent, 14 May 2020; Link to source.

[7] Cited, Moira Welsh, “The saw suffering and death and braved COVID-19 in long-term-care homes. Ontario nurses recount the horrors of the frontlines that left many with PTSD symptoms,” Toronto Star, 20 March 2021, Link to source.

[8] Ellen Amster, “History’s crystal ball: What the past can tell us about COVID-19 and our future,” The Conversation, 28 June 2020, Link to source.

[9] Michael Hurley in conversation with Matt Gurney, “Breaking Point in Long-Term Care in Ontario,” The Bullet, 12 June 2020, Link to source.

[10] Devi Sridhar, “Covid-19 has shown us that good health is not just down to biology,” Guardian, 25 December 2020, Link to source.

[11] Cited, Molly Kinder, Laura Stateler, and Julia Du, Windfall Profits and Daily Risks: How the biggest retail companies are compensating essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brookings Institute, Brief, November 2020, Link to source.

[12] Cited, Robert Narai, “Peru’s COVID-19 crisis, ” Monthly Review online, 1 October 2020, Link to source.

[13] Rivka Galchen, “A New Doctor Faces the Coronavirus in Queens,” New Yorker, 27 April 2020; Link to source.

[14] Saleyha Ahsan, “While Boris Johnson partied in the sun, I sweated in PPE, saving lives,” Guardian, 16 January 2022; Link to source.

[15] Tim Heffernan, Simon Schweitzer and Bill Hopwood, “Covid and Mass Unemployment: The NDP and Beyond,” The Bullet, 8 July 2020, Link to source.

[16] Luke Henriques-Gomes, “‘We should not pretend everybody is suffering equally’: Covid hits Australia’s poor the hardest,” Guardian, 26 September 2020, Link to source.

[17] Nathan J. Robinson, “The Bezos Future,” Current Affairs, January-February 2021, 6-10, Link to source.

[18] Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, Dossier No. 33, “Youth in Brazil’s peripheries in theera of CoronaShock,” Tricontinental, 6 October 2020, Link to source.

[19] Sam Gindin, “The Coronavirus and the Crisis This Time,” The Bullet, 10 April 2020; Link to source.

[20] Jonathan Rutherford, “No wealth but life: the conservative origins of English socialism,” New Statesman, 22 July 2020; Link to source.

[21] Cited in Mohammed Elmaazi, “Our economic system fuels outbreaks, says Evolutionary Epidemiologist who predicted the pandemic,” Monthly Review, 20 May 2020, 2, Link to source.