Pre-existing inequality led to record UK Covid death rate, says health expert

Pre-existing social inequalities contributed to the UK recording the highest death rates from Covid in Europe, a leading authority on public health has said, warning that many children’s lives would be permanently blighted if the problem is not tackled.

Sir Michael Marmot, known for his landmark work on the social determinants of health, argued in a new report that families at the bottom of the social and economic scale were missing out before the pandemic, and were now suffering even more, losing health, jobs, lives and educational opportunities.

In the report, Build Back Fairer, Marmot said these social inequalities must be addressed whatever the cost and it was not enough to revert to how things before the pandemic. “We can’t afford not to do it,” he said.

“It is simply unacceptable that we say it’s OK for children to go to bed hungry … we’ve got some incorrect notions about the necessity of austerity … What is the society we want? We want to guarantee the health and wellbeing of all members and the fair distribution of health and well being. We simply can’t afford not to do it. The government debt is no excuse. We know that is incorrect understanding of economics.”

He painted a grim picture, underscored by statistics that showed the most-deprived families are worst hit. Men and women living in overcrowded conditions in the most deprived areas of the country are the most likely to die from Covid. Carers and those who work in the leisure and service industries have the highest death rates under the age of 64. People from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups who work as taxi drivers, bus drivers, security guards, carers and other low-paid occupations have a higher risk of death.

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