Heightened inequalities

"The pandemic is being felt differently by different people in different places."

In the beginning it appeared that COVID-19 was a great equalizer. It affected people from different countries, races, religions, socio-economic classes alike. Prosperous cities were as likely to be hit by a surge as poor ones, and the virus did not distinguish whose system to invade: The person most proximate to the carrier was always the most at risk. The symptoms are the same.

As we learned more about the virus and got accustomed to living with the constant risk, we realized COVID-19 was anything but an equalizer.  If anything, the pandemic magnified and even aggravated existing inequalities.

Physically, for instance, the elderly and those with comorbidities face greater risk of getting infected, suffering severe symptoms, taking a long time to recover from the illness or even dying from it.

The examples do not end with the COVID infections, per se. The economic issues are arguably more gaping than the physical ones. Mobility restrictions have allowed work-from-home arrangements for many employees, but not all have the luxury of staying productive through remote work. Those who have to show up have to brave the daily risk of exposure to the virus. 

Millions have not even been as lucky. The restrictions have affected numerous businesses, thus forcing them to lay off their workers. It follows that in this environment, it is difficult to find a new source of income. 

Maintaining a safe physical distance is impossible in millions of households and communities.

Even students have not been spared. Those who have the devices and the internet connection, not to mention a set-up conducive to learning, have less to worry about than those with little or no resources. We have no way of knowing today the magnitude of the disruption’s effect on their learning in the long term. 

For many months as well we pinned our hopes that things would start looking up as soon as vaccines were available. Now we know that mere availability does not solve the global problem. What we are seeing now is also great inequity:  Some cities in rich countries have resumed near-normal activities, but others in developing countries are seeing vicious surges and tragic inability to contain the virus. 

Here at home, it does not help that whatever vaccines that manage to find their way here may not be distributed and managed effectively.

What thus can we do in the face of all this? Unfortunately, nothing much in the meantime except to continue maintaining health measures, being aware of these inequities and helping out when we can, and keeping track of what is happening and holding officials accountable for perpetuating instead of closing these gaps.

Topics: Editorial , Heightened inequalities , COVID-19
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