Forget about Coronavirus, inequality is the real threat

Coronavirus is revealing deep inequalities within our societies, economies and health systems. Those who are millionaire are fleeing on private jets to their isolated mansions. The middle class professionals are protecting themselves through self-isolating and working from home, searching for movies to watch or books to read. Meanwhile, thousands of precarious workers have nowhere to hide; if an office gets infected, a multitude of workers come to clean, if a supermarket gets emptied, hundreds of workers need to stack the shelves, if someone goes sick to the hospital, hundreds of nurses need to complete extra shifts to take care of them. Home delivery workers will have to continue exposing themselves going from house to house, public transport drivers must continue running the services, even if they are empty. We haven’t understood that staying at home is not an option for a large part of our society and that inequality is what is going to make this crisis worst.

Inequality itself may be acting as a multiplier on the Coronavirus’s spread and deadliness. The poor, the homeless, the people living in low-income countries and poor healthcare systems are likely the ones who will bear the worst impacts of the pandemic. Research on influenza has found that in an epidemic, poverty and inequality can exacerbate rates of transmission and mortality for everyone. People at the lower ends of society are about 10 percent likelier to have a chronic health condition, which means they are more likely to get the disease and die from it and even if they stay healthy, they are more likely to be impacted by containing measures. Lock-downs do come with some worker protections, but small businesses will probably struggle to keep paying employees beyond any guaranteed sick days, particularly those in sectors that cannot work from home.

Rises in coronavirus will also deepen the gap between those who have money and those ho have not. Less income also means less money to buy essential products. With the increasing demand for some products, prices will go on the rise and it will be even more difficult for those with no income to survive.

Unequal access to health care is another huge factor. A lot of people around the word cannot afford health care and are no covered by universal policies. While some people will receive special treatment in case they get to the most serious stage, others will be left to die by an unequal health system that punishes poor people.

The gap between countries is also visible. Some countries have advanced healthcare systems and even then, they cannot cope with the magnitude of the pandemic, so what can we expect from countries with poor health systems? For example, indigenous communities in countries of Latin-America, which receive a large number of tourists every year have been exposed to the virus; however, they do not count with essential services such as water and electricity, much less with a hospital to take care of ill people. While some enjoy this time to spend money in luxurious holidays, many others will die.

What we haven’t understood is that diseases don’t care about rich and poor. The economic inequalities are worsening the effects of Covid-19 and this in return will affect us all. the illness Covid-19 will pass, but the virus of inequality will continue to kill people for many decades. Governments around the world must take this crisis as an opportunity to act in those areas that have been ignored for a long time and to renew their commitment to reduce inequalities.

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