Those with underlying health conditions are most at risk from coronavirus, and again, the impact differs depending on which rung you’re condemned to on the British social ladder. Previous research by the British Heart Foundation found that working-class Tameside in the north-west, has a heart disease mortality rate three times higher than well-to-do Kensington and Chelsea.
We know that depression and stress weaken our immune systems, and the research is clear: those on low incomes are disproportionately likely to suffer from poor mental health. Poor diet is another factor, and one that is strongly linked to poverty.
Our most impoverished people are those who are homeless with poor nutrition, weaker immune systems, and the lack of access to good hygiene. And what happens to the 1.5 million children eligible for free school meals if our education sector is temporarily closed – do they suffer hunger too?
As the coronavirus continues to unleash mayhem, we could be on the precipice of an economic shock not seen since the great depression. Despite the rhetoric, the latest Budget doesn’t reverse the damage to our social fabric inflicted by a decade of austerity. Indeed, the recent Budget entrenches cuts in key services outside the NHS and police.
And if a renewed economic crisis is on the cards, we can expect the Tories to ensure it is once again paid for by increasingly impoverished children, benefit claimants, and a working-age population that has suffered the longest squeeze in real wages for a generation!
We know the rich look after their own, but these injustices are not acts of God, or mere sad facts of life to be shrugged at with resignation. There will be many lessons to learn from this pandemic. One is a lesson that should have been learned a long time ago – that inequality kills.
Paul Witton, Staffordshire
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