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Government urged to act on “coronavirus complacency “

Government urged to act on “coronavirus complacency “
12th March 2020 Ian Streets

A leading disability rights campaigner has urged the government to do more for disabled and chronically ill people as it steps up the fight against coronavirus.

Frances Ryan, who is recognised as one of the UK’s most influential disabled people, used her column in The Guardian to highlight how the rhetoric around coronavirus overlooks the needs of people who need the most help.

She wrote: “The message that coronavirus is relatively safe for 98 per cent of the population isn’t exactly reassuring if you fall into the other 2 per cent.

“Phrases such as ‘only the long-term sick are dying’ come across as somewhat flippant about – or even accepting of – the risk to millions of people with heart problems, asthma or diabetes.”

Ryan, author of “Crippled: Austerity and the Demonisation of Disabled People”, said complacency among the general public about the virus harming disabled and older people could lead to lower levels of vigilance about the responsibility to contain the virus.

She said: “It a culture where ableism is rife there’s a natural concern about framing a pandemic in the belief that disabled people’s lives aren’t as valuable as everyone else’s.”

Noting the governments public advice campaign, Ryan said there has been little information about what to do if you fall into a high risk group, with many charities reporting an increase in calls from disabled people who are concerned about the virus.

She said: “Instead of overlooking us the government has a duty to put disabled and chronically ill people at the heart of its thinking on coronavirus. Public health crises are not equal-opportunity events: the poorest, most marginalised and disabled are generally the worst affected while the wealthy, connected and healthy are able to cushion themselves.

“There’s a privilege to being able to cut yourself off from the world – be it being able to afford the cost of extra heating during the day, having enough disposable income to stockpile food and medicine or having a job you can do at home.”

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