Coronavirus crisis: We are not ‘all in this together’

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Week 12:

I rather like “Dishy” Rishi Sunak, really I do, but I wish he (and his Conservative cohorts) would stop saying: “We’re all in this together.”

It’s become the catchphrase of the coronavirus, a rallying cry that Covid-19 is a great equaliser: “We’re all in this together.”

Only we’re not in this together, not even close. Rather than being a great equaliser, the coronavirus has been the great revealer – exposing economic, class and race based inequalities once again. 

The rich and middle classes are riding out the Covid-19 storm in second homes and sun-kissed gardens. Conversely the less advantaged are cooped up in small houses and high-rise flats with cardboard-thin walls and no outdoor space; often forced to share the open-plan kitchen/dining/living room with in-laws spanning three generations, with the telly turned up to drown out the noise from next-door – all the while trying not to explode.

Affluent professionals work safely from home on high-speed internet connection but blue collar workers – supermarket assistants, care workers, bus drivers, lower paid NHS staff (hospital porters and cleaners) – must serve members of the public, many of whom refuse to wear masks.

Those who have a job are probably better off financially due to our inability to travel and socialise.

Those who have been furloughed will worry that they won’t have a job to go back to but, in the meantime, are being paid at least 80 per cent of their salary by the government (companies can top up this pay if they choose) and afforded the time to come up with a Plan B should they, heaven forbid, end up needing one.

By contrast those who have lost their jobs amid the current Covid-19 crisis get nothing. And, let’s face it, those who work in certain industries – travel, leisure, hospitality, events, the arts – aren’t likely to be employed again anytime soon, leaving them struggling to survive and frantically applying for universal credit. (Unless, as is the case for a couple of my friends, you’ve spent decades saving up for your first flat and the government turns around and tells you to live off your deposit)..

Elsewhere plenty of virus-hit self-employed have qualified for Sunak’s coronavirus relief package, but equally there’s a profusion of self-employed people – such as PAYE freelancers, limited company contractors and the newly self-employed – who have been excluded from the scheme and left to collapse. (Imagine 12 weeks, that’s three months, without any income or financial support from the government, after having worked and paid tax for your entire adult life).

The pandemic has disclosed other disparities too: people from BAME backgrounds are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus (it remains unclear why), while those living in the poorest areas are twice as likely to die from covid as those in the wealthiest neighbourhoods. Being male, over 70 and plagued by underlying health issues are further risks.

Some have lost loved ones to this dreaded disease, and been robbed of communal support and time-honored rituals to help them cope with their loss. Others, happily, haven’t been touched by death during the time of Covid-19.

Bottom line? Yes we ALL miss our friends and family – and hugs, handshakes and other human contact, particularly if you live alone – but remember that while for some Covid-19 is an incredibly frustrating and inconvenient time, for others it’s a disaster.

“We’re all in this together”.  It’s a sweet sentiment (borrowed by Sunak from his predecessor George Osborne) but, when it comes to the coronavirus, it’s simply not true.

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