Image description: Two surgical masks on a white background
On 21st May, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their pledge to provide COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries: to deliver one billion doses this year and another one billion in 2022. This is a promising step towards bridging the inequality gap between the so-called developing and developed world in the global immunisation race. Despite this, international efforts concerning the pandemic are increasingly required to restore global socioeconomic standards that are even more divided than pre-pandemic. Even with new efforts, the inescapable fact remains that the most socio-economically vulnerable are more susceptible to the virus, in both its direct and indirect effects.
One of these determining factors has been the accessibility of technology. The inequality gap in education has become clearer than ever, as moving lessons online for an entire country makes the bold assumption that there is nationwide access to such technology. With some children attempting to attend classes on their parents’ smartphones, or simply not attending at all, it is unsurprising that the majority of teachers from the most deprived English schools find their pupils to be at least 3 months behind in their learning. For adults, a bleak parallel has emerged. Not only has the work-from-home movement emphasised the threats faced by lower-paid, frontline staff, such as NHS workers and operators of essential stores, but another technology divide has been created. Being able to continue working from home demands an accommodating environment with sufficient technology and working space. Both students and adults have battled with this additional struggle simply due to their socioeconomic background.
But the numbers only reveal so much; little work can be done to quantify how this lost year of education will affect young generations in their academic, social and mental development. There will be no way to compensate those for the months they spent indoors with no access to a public or private outdoor space. Nor will time with our grandparents be restored; it is too late to alleviate the loneliness that the eldest generation experienced, doubled by the fear of being the most vulnerable to an alien disease.