In the poorest neighbourhoods of Wales and England, 55.1 out of every 100,000 people have died from the COVID-19 coronavirus, compared to 25.3 out of 100,000 in the most affluent neighbourhoods, according to the Guardian.
More than 27,510 people have died from the coronavirus and more than 117,454 people have been infected it across the United Kingdom. The new research from the Office for National Statistics also shows that marginalized groups have been heavily impacted by the virus, the Guardian reports.
These demographic disparities reflect how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people living in poverty. It’s not just Wales and England where these inequalities are playing out; they’ve also been observed countries such as the US and China, and health advocates warn that the pandemic could devastate low-income countries.
People living in poverty often have less access to quality health care, jobs that expose them to the virus, worse quality housing, and are more likely to have pre-existing conditions that worsen the virus’ effects. Recent research has shown how air pollution, which is worse in poor communities, makes a person more susceptible to the virus.
On the flipside, affluent people often have more access to health care, jobs that can be done remotely, comfortable homes, and the resources to invest in preventive health measures.
“It has long been recognised that poverty is associated with difficulties accessing health care services and poor health,” Tom Wingfield, a senior clinical lecturer at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, told the Guardian. “It is vital that we address the social determinants and consequences of illness, including COVID-19.
“This will only be achieved by a concerted approach that targets the root causes of these social ills,” he added. “Reducing poverty, closing the gap between the rich and poor, providing universal health care and basic education, ensuring we are all fed and well nourished, and guaranteeing social protection for all those in need in times of sickness or unemployment.”
Disparities in health outcomes along income levels are apparent for nearly all diseases. Since poverty is an intersectional issue, people of color and people with disabilities are also at a heightened risk during the pandemic, the New York Times reports.
The United Nations urges countries to shape relief packages around these realities, earmarking funds for improved health care access, child care support, and food access for people living in poverty.
Further, countries have to ensure people working essential jobs have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), forms of public transportation are regularly cleaned, and social distancing is maintained until the virus is successfully contained.
“This is a moment to re-evaluate failing health, housing and social support systems that have made this crisis especially painful for the less well-off,” Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in a recent statement.