COVID-19 has and will further inequalities

Amjad Yamien
Amjad Yamin (Photo: JNews)
We study history to try and understand what the future will look like, particularly because we do not have better places to look for answers. But we do not necessarily always look at the right places or learn the right lessons.اضافة اعلان

For example, online searches for the Spanish flu, which infected one in three people alive at the time and killed 50 million at the turn of the last century, dramatically increased in March 2020 by about 100 fold, as the COVID-19 pandemic began unfolding around the world.

People tried to understand what happened to life then tried to understand what COVID-19 would do to our world today. But the right question not only asks: “What are the similarities between the Spanish flu and COVID-19?” But also, “what are the differences?”

While obviously two different viruses, the world then and today looked entirely different. In 1919, the world was at war, cars and telephones were limited to the wealthy, illiteracy rates were a lot higher, there was no internet to convey awareness raising messages, and commercial flights were science fiction.

These are precisely why we can fight COVID-19 better today. We are more connected than ever. Anybody with an internet connection can access health messaging and debunk myths; transportation is affordable and can be used to distribute vaccines in hours and phones are everywhere.

But it is this connection that demagogues around the world have sought to eliminate under the guise of fighting COVID-19; politicians have been asking their people to look inward, ignore the plight of others, and worry about themselves, even when the evidence is clear that you cannot fight a global pandemic one state at a time or as inequalities are further entrenched due to the pandemic.

A study by a civil society organization showed that the combined new wealth of just the 10 richest billionaires around the world has skyrocketed by $500 billion since the pandemic began, while more than 114 million people lost their jobs in 2020 alone.

Also consider that in October 2020 alone, four times as many women as men left the workforce. In the US, 860,000 women lost their jobs in one month alone.

We need to come together to fight this pandemic, if we are to learn anything from the Spanish flu, it is that our connection, knowledge, and the relative peace the world enjoys today makes COVID-19 different — if we take these out of the equation and only worry about ourselves, there’s nothing stopping COVID-19 from ripping through the world like the Spanish flu did.