- Credit: PA
May Day 2020 was the day the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that Covid-19 death rates were more than double in the poorest areas of England and Wales than those in the richest, writes Sasha Simic, full address supplied.
An ONS report found the UK’s most deprived areas experienced 55 deaths per 100,000 in contrast with 25 deaths in the wealthiest regions.
The mortality rate in London was far higher than any other region at 85.7 deaths per 100,000 persons, nearly double the next highest figure and the worst hit areas in the capital were the boroughs of Newham, Brent and Hackney.
The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated an existing trend within capitalist society. If you’re poor you can expect to die sooner than the rich. Last year the ONS reported that men living in poorer areas of the UK could expect to live nearly 10 years less than those living in affluent areas and women living in poorer areas lived on average seven years less than women living in rich areas.
Can anyone believe that class “doesn’t matter” in the 21st century? Does anyone believe the lie that ‘we’re all in it together’?
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There can be no going back to “normal” after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. Capitalist “normality” means an early death if you’re poor.
I’m seeing lots of posts attacking people for going outside for a walk or to the park. I’m not into that, writes Craig Parr, Hackney.
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It lets those really responsible for this public health crisis (the government) off the hook. After the 2007-8 financial crisis, we allowed our anger to be diverted from its proper target - the banks and the whole system of financial capitalism - onto disabled people, the unemployed, public sector workers and migrants, who ended up paying for the crisis. For the last 40 years, we’ve signed up to the idea that all of us are equally responsible for the ecological crisis and that individuals need to be more thoughtful if we want to save the planet.
This has meant we haven’t had a discussion about the big corporations that profit from fossil fuel capitalism and have a vested interest in it continuing. Now we’re blaming the rapid spread of Covid-19 on people going to parks on a sunny day. Even though the government and the NHS suggest that you can and should exercise once per day during the lockdown.
Even though polling evidence suggests that 90-95 per cent of people are following the guidance on staying at home whenever possible, on keeping their distance from others and on washing their hands regularly. Even though millions of Londoners, including many people with young children, live in tiny flats without a garden or balcony and would literally go mad if cooped up for 24 hours a day.
What this means is that we’re not talking about the government allowing construction companies to continue operating, including on building luxury flats in inner London, meaning thousands of workers on insecure contracts are forced to travel on the tube or bus to go to work in close proximity to other workers - at much closer quarters than when you’re running, cycling or walking past someone in a park.
We’re also not talking about the fact that the government hasn’t delivered anything like the number of ventilators it suggested it would, that it has still only tested a fraction of the frontline NHS workforce for Covid-19, that health workers are still having to improvise protective equipment out of bin bags, and that the government had two months warning that a deadly new virus was coming our way but wasted that time pursuing a murderous “herd immunity” strategy and refusing to order schools and non essential businesses to close.
Then of course there’s the underfunding and privatisation of the NHS over 10 years.
The people dying now were mostly infected three-four weeks ago, at a time when Boris Johnson was boasting about shaking hands with Covid-19 patients, massive public gatherings like the Cheltenham Festival and the Stereophonics concert in Cardiff were allowed to go ahead, and there was no financial support available for workers and small businesses who would lose money if they stopped operating.
Scolding individuals for their supposed selfishness might make us feel good but it’s not going to do anything to help us fight Covid-19 and learn the lessons of how this crisis was mismanaged so we can better prepare for the next pandemic. To do that we need to scrutinise the people with actual power - the government.
I saw on the news that the council are having difficulty funding services because of the coronavirus. Does this mean that Hackney council will return the Tesla S limo and save £100,000 per annum? writes Trevor Parram, Pitfield Estate, Hoxton
While on the subject of motoring. Hackney Council claim they do not use parking enforcement to raise revenue. A Labour minister on the TV last week said that councils are losing money because they not getting funds from, among other things, parking income. So are the council lying or is the MP a blithering idiot who does not know what he is talking about?
Below are the reason the council give for parking payments
1. Improve congestion - Parked cars do not congested, moving cars do
2. Improve road safety - Parked cars do not collide with anyone
3. Improve local air quality - Parked cars do not pollute
4. Reduce carbon dioxide emissions - Parked cars do not emit anything
5. Improve the quality of the local street environment - This one has me befuddled. Cars are parked anyway, whether they are paying to park or not the environment remains the same
6. Shorten bus journey times and emergency vehicle response times - I refer you to Answer No 1.
Maybe Damian Duggan-Ryan has only recently moved into the area (Gazette, April 30), writes Tom Uprichard, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Stoke Newington.
The roadworks outside William Patten School have been there since September last year, with Hackney Council and Transport for London each blaming the other for the lack of progress.
Flicking through pages on the internet during this seemingly never ending contagion, I came across a couple of pieces referring to former cinemas in Hackney, where I lived in Amhurst Road from 1943-1965, writes Mervyn Gilbert, Woodford Green, Redbridge.
The items showed pictures of the old Savoy in Stoke Newington High Street – one of many in the area during the period mentioned above.
How many can recall the following: Gaumont and Vogue, Dalston Junction; Odeon, Kingsland High Street; Classic, Coliseum and Ambassador in Stoke Newington; Super near Well Street (where I watched the Queen’s Coronation); and Regent, Stamford Hill?
The list will probably bring gasps of amazement to cinemagoers now, but their reactions would be even more pronounced if my memory enabled me to include some of the others.
Peanuts would be sold outside (certainly at the Odeon) before showings, which included a main film plus Pathé or Movietone newsreel.
Usherettes would serve ice cream and salted peanuts during the intermission. Happy days!
Felicite Du Jeu has written a tribute to the NHS:
The clock is about to hit the hour. I stand behind my glass window, waiting. In the background, sirens pierce through the deafening and cautioning silence. A slicing sound that has become customary these days.
Up the road, through the silent street, your tired shadow stretches out on the pavement. Your brow furrowed by the past few weeks and from knowing too much, you carry a heavy step.
Who knows what absence you leave at home and how you cope behind closed doors. When life has become a mess, when the normal grinds to a halt and anxiety sears through your body and mind, when scrubs lack, when you’re outrun by numbers coming in, when night and day you hear the suffering and the suffocating, what of you then?
You go to work each day regardless of the gamble lying ahead. The dirty finger of the infection lurking by your side while you soldier on, head high and tears at bay. The unthinkable has happened. It bears no face but has a name, a harrowing name. Because of it, we stand powerless but for you.
We’ve been living in a world of villains and heroes in which nobody identifies with the heroes. While next to us we had the best of the best going unsupported and unrecognised, for so long taken for granted.
We owe you so much, past and future, yet send you without protection to fight an invisible giant. It is a poor recompense for someone putting his or her life at risk for us. Integrity shifts before death but you prove to us each day, come what may, that duty and bravery still holds.
So if I stand tonight at my window to clap for the brave shadow holding the torch of heroes, it is to say thank you. For making me aware: Thank you. For making up for my ignorance: Thank you For making me human: Thank you For the blessing that you are in our lives: Thank you.