Is it just me or is anyone else getting seriously eerie vibes at the supermarket nowadays? I’ve been trying to maintain a keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude to the outbreak thus far, but seeing the aisles emptied of non-perishables and shopping trollies stacked with toilet paper gives one the sense that shit is (quite literally) about to get very real.
I’m not a public health expert and can’t express a qualified opinion on the ‘herd immunity’ approach our Government is currently taking (although there’s certainly a stench of Dominic Cummings about it), but I’m as nervous about the knock-on impacts of the virus as I am about the virus itself. Some of us might be in a position to wait it out at home, but what about those who’s absence would leave us up shit creek without a paddle?
Whatever the long-term outcome of this crisis, the ability for society to cope in the short-term is going to depend largely on the underpaid and undervalued. The supermarket staff who are facing increasingly agitated customers and difficult work conditions. The already overstretched NHS workers and other frontline public servants who put themselves at risk to keep us healthy and safe. The carers who continue to take care of society’s elderly and most vulnerable, for whom working from home isn’t an option. The cleaners who will play a key role in preventing the spread of the virus (and who generally shield us from the detty pigs in our midst). The gig economy workers who have minimal employment rights, zero sick pay and little choice but to continue getting us from A to B or delivering the stuff we order from the comfort of our homes-cum-offices.
Ironically, a lot of these jobs are disproportionately staffed by the very immigrants who have been demonised and denigrated in our recent toxic discourse; many of whom would be branded as “low-skilled workers” unworthy of being in this country under the Government’s new points-based system (gleefully introduced by Priti pussyclaat Patel).
When this is all said and done, will we finally agree that there’s no such thing as low-skilled work, only low paid work? Will the Government use the magic money tree they’ve miraculously discovered to pay our frontline public servants the salaries they deserve and the resources they need? Will there be public support and political will to ensure everyone has access to a real living wage? Will Brexit Britain show some goddamn gratitude to immigrants for a change?
While the longer-term impacts of Covid-19 are unclear and unprecedented, it’s already proving to be a stark case study of the perils of hypercapitalism and the precariousness of a system based on putting profit before people and environment. If anything positive is to come out of this, let’s hope it might lead to transformational change of a very broken system.
To anyone keeping us afloat in the meantime, THANK YOU. You are the real MVPs.