Throughout the pandemic, we have heard the catchphrases: “We are all in the same boat”; “the virus makes no difference” These are powerful terms, but they could not be further from truth by such simplistic notions.
It is now well known that there are large disparities between populations, both in the probability of contracting covid and in the magnitude of the effects of the lockdown on travel, work and education. The announcement of Boris Johnson on Monday night was anticipated and needed, given that hospital admissions are now 40 percent higher than ever before, but I felt demoralized by it like many others. Again, since there is no definite end date for the lockdown, there is a queasy feeling and the only assurance is that we will see a growing number of Covid fatalities in the coming weeks. The Deaton Inequalities Review of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), launched about 18 months ago, verified what many expected and suspected this week: the coronavirus has both revealed and further deepened disparity in health, income, and education. Low-income migrants or temporary workers, for instance, usually have jobs that they can not do from home, placing them at higher risk of having Covid-19. If they become infected, the loss of revenue they experience from quarantine is important, and job instability also means they do not have a job to return to. Even a temporary income freeze can have tremendous psychological and social implications without savings or a network on which they can rely on financial support. A new Citizens Advice study found that more than half a million people are behind on their rent in England. The majority were not in arrears prior to the pandemic and are under tension over potential eviction. One of the most controversial steps is the recent school closures in England.
Schools are important not only for schooling, but also for pastoral care, and proper nutrition for the most vulnerable children. The IFS study showed that children from poorer families fell behind the most, and that private school students were twice as likely to have online classes during the closure as children in state schools. Covid-19 has shown us that health is not only a biological problem | Devi SridharContinue readingThink about how different the effect of increased disruption to schooling would be for children in
A child who has a room of his own, a laptop, and well-educated parents who have enough time to endorse homeschooling may have a learning experience that is very different from a child who shares a room with siblings, has no Internet access, and whose parents work or don’t speak English well enough to help them learn at home. It is therefore less likely for the latter child to have access to a garden. The fact that the new restrictions extend to all of us makes it easy to forget that the effect is not going to be the same in practice – for the most disadvantaged, it will be much more pronounced and nuanced. The government must not ignore steps that minimize the unequal effect of its new policy on coronavirus regulation.
Most of us have been challenged and irritated by the months of restrictions in 2020, but the lessons we have learned can now be our greatest assets. In the first coronavirus health epidemic, we were too late to identify and resolve the systemic determinants that drive disparities in the risk of infection and access to quality health care. This time, policymakers need to understand and proactively address the frequently unequal effects of infection control policies they placed in place. This would entail targeted measures, such as ensuring access to adequate computers and internet access for children of lower-income parents, which are important for home learning. The budget announcement of Rishi Sunak, scheduled for March 3, should also take equity as a key consideration.
Economic assistance packages for businesses and staff impacted by the Covid crisis must include people in informal jobs and others who are responsible for caregiving duties.