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Alex Crozier: Lockdowns don't work unless workers can afford to follow restrictions

Lockdowns only work if they reduce transmission. And transmission only reduces if those who are sick self-isolate. But what if that comes at too great a cost?

The millions of people who cannot afford to self-isolate face a choice between financial devastation and compliance. By not providing proper support, the government is forcing people to decide between their families and their communities. This choice is cruel. And it is avoidable.

The evidence is clear that Covid-19 disparities are driven by differences in exposure both at home and at work. Those of lower socioeconomic status are hit hardest by both the virus and the collateral damage of restrictions. In lockdown, almost all risk is shifted on to the 10 million key workers who cannot work from home, as well as those living in deprived areas and overcrowded houses – two groups that often overlap.

Given that the new variant of Covid-19 is significantly more infectious, transmission within households and among key workers, who spend extended time in close proximity to others, will increase. As always with deprivation, one problem amplifies another – being an essential worker and living in dense housing with multiple generations is not just associated with Covid-19 risk: it is the mechanism that creates the risk.

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