The Financial Times published an article yesterday entitled ‘Covid’s Health Legal Legacy Demands Radical Revamp of Welfare Systems’. It was written by an FT staff writer Kate Allen. Ms Allen argues that welfare systems and employers need to do more to help people with long-term health conditions, including those affected by ‘long Covid’.
There were a surprising number of comments under the article by readers who take the view that ‘long Covid’ is an imaginary illness and that many people who have suffered and died from Covid were themselves to blame because they were obese or diabetic. I can understand that many people, including readers of the FT, are suffering from a sympathy deficit after many months marooned in their homes. However, people who share these views need to consider a few points.
Pandemics have been with us throughout history and they have killed many, many people. They also tend to target different demographics. Covid targets older people (including my age group) and those with long-term health conditions including obesity and diabetes. The Spanish Flu on the other hand targeted young people in their prime (20s and 30s), plus children. Older people were largely immune, possibly because they had been exposed to ‘Russian flu’ in the 1890s. The next pandemic (which could come sooner than we think) will have its own target groups, possibly including some of the people who have posted the critical comments under the FT article.
We must also not forget that Covid has affected many people outside the most exposed groups, including people in their 50s and under, plus some children. Many of those individuals are now suffering from the symptoms of ‘long Covid’.
I have noticed that people who blame the victims for getting Covid are also likely to object to lockdowns and other restrictions on the grounds that they restrict human rights. I can understand there is room for argument in the case of a virus that kills ‘only’ 1% of those it infects, with that 1% being concentrated among people near the end of their lives and those who have ‘let themselves go’ by becoming obese or diabetic. However, I suspect these defenders of human rights would soon change their views if the virus killed, say, 5% or more of those infected, or if it targeted, say, young children. We should not need a Constitution or Declaration of Human Rights to tell us that the need to preserve life trumps other rights during a pandemic.
We can only hope that FT readers will become more charitable as the pandemic gradually recedes. Meanwhile they should remember John Donne’s words: “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”.
Michael Ingle – firstname.lastname@example.org