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This Speech Is A Powerful Reminder That COVID-19 Is Hitting The Poorest The Hardest

This Speech Is A Powerful Reminder That COVID-19 Is Hitting The Poorest The Hardest

A newsreader's powerful speech about how the coronavirus crisis is affecting poorer families has gone viral.

Newsnight's Emily Maitlis, 49, started her BBC Two show by speaking some home truths about the COVID-19 crisis last night, pointing out that while it is horrific for everybody, some were facing more negative implications than others.

She said it was important to recognise that people "don't survive the illness through fortitude or strength of character."

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"The language around COVID-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading. You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister's colleagues tell us," she went on.

Emily Maitlis gave the speech on Newsnight (Credit: BBC)
Emily Maitlis gave the speech on Newsnight (Credit: BBC)

"And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone, rich or poor, suffers the same, this is a myth that needs debunking.

"Those on the frontline right now - bus drivers, shelf-stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers - are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce.

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"They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed, those in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher. Those in manual labour won't be able to work from home."

Adding her fears that Britain was soon going to plunge into a recession, she continued: "This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare and it's a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.

"Tonight as France goes into recession and the World Trade Organization warns the pandemic could provoke the deepest economic downturn of our lifetimes, we ask what kind of social settlement might need to be put in place to stop the economy becoming even more stark".

Frontline workers are disproportionately at risk (Credit: PA)
Frontline workers are disproportionately at risk (Credit: PA)
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The BBC host's speech couldn't have come soon enough, as the number of low paid "key workers" to die from the virus continues to tragically creep up.

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So far, upwards of 17 NHS frontline staff have died after contracting COVID-19, including Dr Amged El-Hawrani, 55, an ear, nose and throat specialist, Aimee O'Rourke, a 39-year-old nurse, and 23-year-old John Alagos - the youngest nurse to have so far passed away.

Plus, a total of 14 transport staffers have also died from the disease - largely because they didn't have the luxury of being able to stay at home.

While the majority of the middle class are being told to work from home where possible, those in essential front-line roles, or working on in manual labour, are not blessed with such a luxury, and it's putting them at greater risk.

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One study, reported by The Guardian, found that in the UK, low-paid women have more chance of being exposed to COVID-19 as they are more likely have jobs in ares such as social care, nursing and pharmacy.

And more shocking still, Autonomy, an independent economics think-tank, found that one million of the 3.2 million high-risk workers selflessly putting their own health on the line are among those currently being paid the least in society.

Living situation also largely affects quality of life (Credit: PA)
Living situation also largely affects quality of life (Credit: PA)

Many feel forced to continue working as their jobs are less secure, even if they're ill, as the country's £94.25 a week statutory sick pay falls short of their needs.

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Speaking to the Financial Times, Parisian bakery worker Eva said that she was "appalled to work" in the current conditions, but couldn't stop for fear of losing her job. Her story is echoed by millions of others across the globe.

Of course, even for those fortunate enough to be able to stay home are largely impacted by class divides.

While many are lucky enough to have their own bedrooms and even a garden, other large families are facing the reality of staying cooped up inside small flats, with no outdoor space and nowhere to escape to - other than for their one hour's worth of government permitted exercise.

And their freedom to exercise outside may be eradicated soon, too, as the government warned at the weekend that if people didn't adhere to social distancing rules they would be forced to take lockdown restrictions further.

As the New York Times so eloquently put it, discrepancies in wealth are now creating "a gulf between rich and poor in coping with disruptions".

Well done to Emily Maitlis for putting it so eloquently.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

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Joanna Freedman

Joanna is a journalist at Tyla with a particular interest in highlighting women's issues and telling inspiring first person stories. She's also their resident foodie, and loves covering exciting new beauty launches, too. Contact her at [email protected]