The coronavirus does not care about your social class or employment status. It does not concern itself with your accent or where you went to school. It is uninterested in how much money you have in your bank account.
But this tiny concentration of proteins has been able to succeed in doing the most harm in our least privileged communities.
The death rate from Covid-19 has been more than twice as high in England’s poorest areas than in the richest parts of the country.
Why is that? Why is the impact of this disease so uneven, so unfair?
The London borough of Newham is a good place to start getting some answers. This unloved patch of the old east end – packed with neglected 1960s high-rises and run-down Victorian terraces – has seen the second-highest coronavirus death rate in England since the beginning of March.
Newham also has the single worst overcrowding problem in the country. More than 25 per cent of homes in the borough don’t have enough bedrooms for the families living in them.
The area has become notorious for rogue landlords squeezing their properties for every last penny – installing bunk-beds into living rooms; cramming families into basement storerooms; renting out jerry-built garden sheds and back-lane garages.
The big squeeze affects council tenancies as well as private lets. Some lucky enough to be in social housing don’t feel lucky at all, desperately pleading with the council to find them somewhere big enough to raise a family properly.
Nosakhare Omoijade is a Transport for London bus driver who has worked on full time through the crisis. A couple of his friends – colleagues on the buses – died after contracting Covid-19. He lives in fear of bringing it home to his tiny council tower block flat in East Ham....
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