Covid will become 'disease of the poor' if roadmap isn't changed, warns Independent SAGE member

24 February 2021, 19:14 | Updated: 25 February 2021, 08:31

By Fiona Jones

Independent SAGE member Christina Pagel warns that Covid-19 will become a "disease of the poor" if a few essential changes are not made to the PM's roadmap.

Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap on Monday which ultimately aims to get life in England as close to 'back to normal' as possible by July.

Schools are set to reopen on 8 March, with up to six people or two households allowed in outdoor spaces from 29 March.

People are still urged to work from home if possible.

Professor Pagel said of the roadmap that "a few extra things" could make it "so much more effective", citing the risk that Covid will become "a disease of the poor."

She cited leaked SAGE Committee notes where members called Covid "a perfect storm for deprived communities", adding: "People are much more exposed as they have to go out and work and often they work in reasonably unsafe workspaces.

"They're more likely to get sick once they get Covid and they're less able to isolate, partly because of bad housing, partly because they literally can't afford to. All of those things together has meant that throughout the pandemic we have seen higher case rates and higher deaths in more deprived communities."

Professor Pagel: "Lockdown works really well for richer people who can work at home."

Eddie asked how the Government can prevent Covid from becoming a "disease of the poor".

She responded that the way to do this is by investing in those communities: "The very first thing you should do is just pay people a living wage to isolate. SAGE has repeatedly highlighted that Dido Harding herself said with Test and Trace that one of the biggest issues is people cannot afford to stay at home."

She branded the current offering of £500 for two weeks "much below the minimum wage."

"A lot of people aren't getting it even," the Professor said, "you have to show you're entitled to Government support to get that kind of payment."

She said this would also solve the lack of uptake for testing, as people from deprived communities are less motivated to have a test as it would mean income loss.