We’ve all had the experience of looking in the mirror and seeing something that we didn’t expect. This can be both bad and good. If you’re lucky, you might be pleasantly surprised by how you look. More often, unfortunately, you wonder who the tired bedraggled-looking stranger is staring back at you. In some ways, the Coronavirus crisis has had the same effect for the country as a whole.
The crisis has shown us many different things about our country that we may not have been aware of, or been aware of but choose to ignore. Reflected back at us, we’ve seen how vitally important so many jobs are that are hugely undervalued and underpaid, we’ve seen how terrible social isolation is, we’ve seen that people will go out of their way to help those around them.
We’ve also seen that Britain – one of the richest countries in the world – is still a country full of inequalities. As the Covid crisis is primarily a public health crisis (although the economic and social elements of this should never be forgotten or underplayed) a particular light has been shone on the huge health inequalities that exist in this country.
These inequalities can be seen in the difference in mortality rates between different groups. For a wide variety of different reasons, those who have sadly died from Coronavirus so far have disproportionately been living in poorer areas (and from BAME backgrounds).
At the same time, there is also a linked but separate geographic dimension. Data released earlier in the week shows that – despite all the Tories’ warm words about “levelling up” – people living in the North of England and parts of the Midlands are far less likely to successfully get a Covid test than those in London and the South East.
Tackling these health inequalities – which mean that people living in poorer areas live shorter less healthy lives than their richer neighbours – needs to be a top priority coming out of this crisis. The Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review has, in fact, identified tackling these inequalities as key to any “levelling up”.
We know that the Prime Minister is keen on building big infrastructure projects (or at least spending lots of money on big infrastructure projects that then get dropped). These are definitely important for our local and regional economies, but we cannot afford to ignore the health and wellbeing of our people.