The coronavirus outbreak has put a spotlight on economic inequalities in our country and a fragile social safety net that leaves many of our vulnerable fellow citizens to bear the economic and social brunt of this pandemic.
Our political leaders will need to consider these underlying inequalities in responding urgently to the mounting challenges of this pandemic.
While the coronavirus affects people regardless of wealth, the poor will be most affected due to longstanding vulnerabilities.
Although the coronavirus started with those who are able to travel abroad, as time goes on, the poor – as maids, cleaners, drivers, and so on and so forth to the well-to-do – are more likely to be exposed to the virus, have higher mortality rates, and suffer economically.
In times of economic crisis, these vulnerabilities will be more pronounced for the poor.
The measures taken to curb the spread of the virus – necessary as they are – are very crippling to the poor.
We need a response to the coronavirus that prevents people from having to choose between not having a meal and risking their and their families’ health.
The poor need help. They are hit first and hardest by the economic consequences of fighting this virus.
Low-income jobs in fields like retail, hospitality, childcare, and the gig economy cannot be performed remotely.
And research has shown that poverty is associated with higher rates of chronic health conditions such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, factors that increase vulnerability to the coronavirus. The poor, to a great extent and especially in urban areas, live in high density areas, where water and sanitation leave a lot to be desired. Measures such as social distancing are difficult to implement.
The poor have no savings to weather a lack of income, and even stocking up on food can represent an impossible financial hurdle. They live a hand-to-mouth life. They have to go out everyday to find something to put on the table.
Due to the lack of resources to prepare and protect against the coronavirus, the poor face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus.
Money or no money, the government has an obligation to protect people’s right to an adequate standard of living, which includes ensuring adequate food and nutrition, the highest attainable standard of health, and social security.
There’s need to provide a safety net for families and workers whose livelihoods are affected.
The government should consider a response that would support the poor and all low-income workers and people who have lost wages.
There’s need to support and protect the poor and all those who face devastating job and wage loss.
Issued by Fred M’membe on behalf of the Politburo of the Socialist Party