We are not ‘all in this together’ – when it comes to coronavirus, some are more equal than others

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Wednesday 15 April 2020 18:24 BST
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Drug dealers 'disguising themselves as key workers' during UK lockdown

I wish politicians would stop using the line “we’re all in this together” when it comes to Covid-19. This is simply not true and is a myth that must be immediately quashed.

Far from being the great leveller, coronavirus has exposed and will exacerbate existing inequalities. Those who suffered from the last Crash, the young, the low-paid and those living precarious lifestyles, will suffer most again.

While many of us can work from home and self-isolate, it is these individuals who are often on the coronavirus frontline, be it as hospital porters, care workers, cleaners, supermarket workers or delivery drivers. This leaves them more exposed to the virus and more vulnerable to being made redundant and not being furloughed.

They rent while the wealthier own their homes, and they spend more of their income on necessities, leaving them vulnerable to sudden income falls. Middle class children can play in gardens, a luxury not afforded to many living in high-rises, exacerbating mental health problems. And for those in families where education is maybe not seen as a priority, this further exacerbates already existing inequalities.

The next time a politician says “we are all in this together”, remember that for some Covid-19 is an incredible inconvenience but for many it is absolutely disastrous.

Alex Orr
Edinburgh

Science fact and fiction

Sean O’Grady is surely correct in his assertion that in any future inquest into its handling of the coronavirus epidemic, the government’s “we were only obeying orders” stock defence will be “we were just following the science”. I’m not sure this will stand much scrutiny. Maybe the government did follow the advice, but surely that advice was predicated on what was possible, not what was desirable. It may have been appropriate to advocate a regime of testing 100,000 cases a day, but there was little point the scientific experts advising it when it was an impossible target.

There is a famous saying in golf “you play the ball where it lies”. It basically means that you are not allowed to improve the ball’s position before you make your next shot i.e. you have to make the best of a bad job. Surely at the enquiry, a key question should be about how we got into such a bad position in the first place. That then will require a detailed examination of policies towards the NHS over many years, including its chronic underfunding, the lack of strategic planning, the hostile immigration environment aimed at foreign health workers and the scrapping of bursaries for student nurses. Like a good caddie, the scientists have been trying to advise on the best shot to play out of the rough. The real question is how we got so far off the fairway to start with.

Malcolm Harris
Grimsby

The road to economic ruin

Compared with countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, where deaths are few and there has been no full lockdown, the UK’s response to coronavirus had been woeful. Clearly there has been a considerable lack of competence among those at the top of organisations like Public Health England, which wasted its time fussing about us drinking too much fizzy drink instead of preparing for a pandemic that experts have been warning about for decades. The UK has been far too slow in obtaining PPE, test kits, ventilators and in distributing loans and funds to support businesses. If the same slow response is applied to our emergence from lockdown, it will bankrupt this country. Urgent action, top people and bravery are now needed to save us from economic ruin. From Monday open factories, building sites, large shops and garden centres, while adopting the 2-metre distancing so successfully implemented by supermarkets. If we dither much longer it will be too late.

David Kilpatrick
St Albans

Stubborn Sturgeon

We must be grateful to the Scottish government’s clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, for confirming as “rubbish” claims that suppliers are being asked to divert PPE to prioritise supplying England over Scotland. However, while Professor Leitch characterised the UK’s approach as “pretty aligned”, it’s regrettable Nicola Sturgeon and her health secretary, Jeane Freeman, seemingly hastily seized on the suggestion and grabbed headlines. Ms Sturgeon had hitherto fulfilled her role as an integral part of the UK team satisfactorily, reinforcing the UK line on tackling the virus. Let’s hope she doesn’t revert to her usual manufactured grievance politics at this crucial time.

Martin Redfern
Edinburgh

We were ill-prepared for this pandemic

Rishi Sunak has said that “we came into this crisis with a fundamentally sound economy, powered by the hard work and ingenuity of the British people and British businesses”. Maybe. Or maybe not. But we undoubtedly came into this crisis with an NHS decimated by Tory cuts, combined with a hostile environment that deprived the country of many health and social care workers. And we undoubtedly came into this crisis having recklessly turned our back on the EU, and therefore on any lasting opportunities for collaborative research. So much for the ingenuity of the British people.

Beryl Wall
London

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