The social consequences of the pandemic
The recent emergence of the COVID pandemic which continues globally, apart from its given medical-biological consequences, presents significant aspects, with which this article will deal with.
One dimension that immediately comes to mind is the predisposition of a section of the population of every country to display symptoms of the disease while at the same time afflicted by the ostensible underlying disorder in conjunction with specific socio-economic variables. Thus individuals suffering from hypertension, diabetes, respiratory problems and with a record of lack of exercise, obesity, poor diet, unhealthy living conditions, anxiety over day-to-day survival, unhealthy working conditions, have a high propensity towards falling ill (Zisis and Chtouris 2020:67). This may help to explain why more deaths were noted in parts of e.g. Britain (including Wales) mainly inhabited by low-income and precariously employed population groups (https://www.ons.gov.uk). People in such places have difficulty accessing a regime of preventive medicine that would help to impede further penetration of the illness. A key factor in this is the downgrading of public health and social welfare that has accompanied the entrenchment of neoliberal politics in wide swathes of the planet. And the situation is exacerbated by inability to implement restrictive measures because of overcrowding and the absence of adequate provisioning (with the shanty towns of the southern hemisphere as characteristic environments) (Zisi and Chtouris 2020: 68).
A second basic aspect of existing conditions is the racial element in the spread of disease. Data made available by Reuters news agency indicates that mortality rates among Afro-Americans are two and a half times higher than those of white Americans (one in 1,850 with Afro-Americans as against one in 4,400 with whites). The same applies with hospital admissions and with infection by the virus (van Dorn et al 2020). The same phenomenon is evident in other countries with significant national minorities (Brazil, France, Britain). Of course there is nothing surprising about this because the reasons for it are only superficially biological but in reality profoundly social. Minorities such as Afro-Americans, Hispanics, native Americans in the USA and Latin America, Maghrebis in France, etc. comprise a labour force working without protection in conditions of mass production in sectors catering to basic needs with a high degree of exposure to the danger of contracting the virus. At the same time bad housing conditions (lack of ventilation, overcrowding) further increasing the danger of infection. Particularly in the case of Greece numerous cases were noted both in encampments of Roma and in areas inhabited by the Muslim minority (Zisi and Chtouris 2020: 69; 71). It should be emphasized, finally that the situation is made even worse in some regions of the planet by the difficulties faced by people living in shanty towns and slums in gaining access to clean water so as to be able to observe basic rules of hygiene, characteristic example being Johannesburg, Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Nairobi.
A third aspect is linked to geographic discrimination. Here the basic differentiation is that between the big urban centres and the farming regions. In the latter, access to health care is more limited. But above and beyond that it is interesting to note the unequal distribution of funding between regions on the basis of electoralist criteria. Characteristic from that viewpoint is the fact that the Trump government chose to make available 47,000 dollars per patient in states supporting the American president: Montana, Nebraska and West Virginia whereas in pro-Democrat but particularly severely afflicted New York the sum provided was 12,000 dollars.
A fourth aspect is that of educational inequalities. It is calculated that because of lockdown 1,200 million were excluded from "classical" schoolrooms. Apart from the psychological consequences of this for the student population as a whole there were specific consequences for schoolchildren from poor families and economically underdeveloped countries. According to OECD figures, whereas in states such as Austria, Norway and Switzerland 95% of pupils had reliable access to internet, in countries such as Indonesia that proportion fell below 34% and in sub-Saharan Africa was as low as a meager 10%.
The conclusion that emerges is that although a medical-biological phenomenon, the COVID pandemic involves very significant social dimensions. Whether one is affluent or poor, white or black, from a developed or undeveloped country is a significant consideration plays an important role in determining not only whether one will receive treatment and whether one's health will be affected but also on the level of education available to one's children in a time of Corona virus.
Office For National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending5june2020#deaths-by-region-in-england-and-wales (accessed on 17/6/2020).
Van Dorn A., R. Cooney and M. Sabin, 2020, “Covid-19 exacerbating inequalitities in the US”, Lancet n. 395, pp. 1243-1244.
Ζisi Α. and S. Chtouris, 2020, "The Covid-19 Pandemic: Accelerator of inequality and institutor of new forms of inequality", The Greek Review of Social Research. n. 154, pp. 65- 73.
 In Milwaukee blacks comprise 26% of the population but almost 50% of infections and similar figures are to be seen in Illinois.