Since Covid 19 became a pandemic, many of us have been quick to point out how this virus has connected us together as country and a global community. The leaders of the world have held nothing back as they continue to tell us how we are all in this together and that we are all going to have to make the same sacrifices to protect lives. Although, the most vulnerable people of our global population seem to be the hardest hit, it seems, unlike any other threats, Covid 19 doesn’t discriminate, who these vulnerable people are.
Since January, we have watched it sweep its way through the working, middle and upper class taking no names and certainly no numbers. High profile politicians in Iran had died from it, Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau had to isolate, Hollywood legend Tom Hanks even had it, it even hit our monarchy with Prince Charles declaring he was infected and of course the most famous and important one of them all, our very own PM, Boris Johnson is hospitalised because of it. It was the final proof we all needed, that this isn’t an illness that targeted a certain section of society, unlike other diseases, it was targeting everyone.
For many, it was an opportunity to scream from the top of their voice, how this is further evidence, that we are indeed a global community and we are in it together and we can defeat it together by doing one simple thing – Stay Home. But is Covid 19 really an indiscriminate virus that has managed to pull together the global community or is it just merely exposing the deep inequalities we have in this world and in fact the most discriminatory type of disease we have ever come across.
In the middle of March when we were heading into partial lockdown, there were some States in the US, who had already gone into lockdown. I remember watching a video on Facebook, by one of my all time heroes, none other than The Terminator himself – Arnold Schwartznegger. In the video with a cigar in his mouth and donning a grey beard, he strolled around his mansion equipped with a gym and swimming pool. He was encouraging people to stay at home, while showing us all, what he will be doing at home, during the lockdown and how people can keep busy by doing what he does. I remember thinking just how out of touch he must be with the common folk. To be bold Arnie, if I had a mansion with a pool, sauna and my own personal gym in sunny California? I would be in lockdown all my life. It got me thinking deeper into this. As the days and week passed, I came across videos on Tik Tok, You Tube and Facebook, of the many different ways people are enjoying and making the most of their time in lockdown. What was very clear to me, is the contrast of privileges across the globe and our country. So, while the middle class parents, such as myself, happily share pictures of our home office, our rainbow flags drawn by our kids in their terrific homeschooling. The single people show of their latest yoga poses or home fitness routine in their large open space and the Gamers record their next video game for their growing subscribers on You Tube. There is a dark and sinister side to all of this that people are not seeing. A cruel picture which shows the real inequalities of the society we have built upon ourselves and why lockdown isn’t a Universal utopian answer, as it is to some. Like it or not, if you are enjoying, benefiting or can be in lockdown with little to no major effect in your life, you are the privileged one.
As you work from home, you must remember this is a privilege that not many can afford. Since March, we have come across terms such as Essential Workers and Key Workers which are really just names to sugar coat the social inequalities that we have in our job market. We have sexed up the delivery person, shop workers, front line workers, calling them heroes, giving them a false sense of hope and validation, making it out like they have a choice to be out there, but really they don’t. It might be a rude awakening, but many workers in the front line such as shop keepers, supermarket assistants, cleaners, are not doing these jobs to be heroes, they are doing it to get paid. If they had the option to work from home, many would. But since their industry is at the height of production at the moment, they can’t refuse to work without losing their income.
As someone who works with vulnerable families, I know families who live in overcrowded social housing flats, with numerous children that have nowhere to go outside or have adequate space inside their homes to learn or just be a normal child. So whilst some of us, including myself, have only two kids and have the luxury of a back and front garden with high speed 24/7 internet connected to my home and be able to afford subscriptions to Netflix and Disney Plus to keep my kids entertained. I have to remind myself, there are a large number of families who do not have these privileges.
Calls to domestic violence line have soared since the lockdown, there are great fears that children under social services are more vulnerable to their abusers, mental, sexual and physical. A great rise in food banks globally for families that have lost incomes and now resorting to food from charities. Unemployment benefits rising by the millions as more and more people lose their jobs. Is it such a surprise then, when a new survey reported that 15% of this country’s population is feeling the stress of the lockdown and that it is likely to increase by a further 10% the further it is imposed.
This global pandemic has brought the global community together in a lot of ways. It has allowed us to appreciate and question the material things we put value on, but it has also deeply highlighted our society’s problems. Majority of the people who have been severely or fatally infected by Covid 19 had previous poor underlining health issues, issues which were caused by poverty. You can call low paid front line workers heroes all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact, they are out risking their lives, doing a job many of us will not do and they are only doing, in the fear of losing their livelihood.
It’s not just a UK problem, being from a Bangladeshi family. I have read and watched news about the lockdown situation in South East Asia. There are rickshaw drivers, garment workers, food vendors and farmers, who are ready to defy lockdown and risk getting Covid 19 rather than die of starvation. These are workers who don’t belong to a welfare state, unions, they do not have savings, they do not have investments, or part of any protected wages schemes. They earn each day and take home what they make, for them lockdown simply doesn’t work.
So, yes, even though Boris might be in the same hospital as Mr Ali from Forest Gate or Dave from Dagenham, receiving the same treatment by the same high level of professionals nurses and doctors. It might make great headlines, how we are all the same when it comes to this pandemic. The real story starts when they are discharged. Boris and others like him, will return to a job, a house, a lifestyle that will allow them to carry on lockdown in the comfort of their video calling, internet streaming, nice garden and comfy deck chairs. Whilst Mr Ali or Dave will be returning to their social housing with a small balcony, cramped space and overcrowded bedrooms, with very little to do.
Lockdown UK is not for everyone, it was a necessity but it can’t work for too long. It is not a system the people of this country were built for, we are not a totalitarian regime and for those of us who can still live our lives quite comfortably, we are certainly in a point of privilege and not necessarily at a point of sacrifice.