Disadvantaged Australians Are Four Times More Likely To Die From COVID

The gulf between low and high socioeconomic groups has never been more stark.

New data has found that Covid impacts poorer communities harder than it does wealthy, unsurpisingly.

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When discussing the theme ‘When Will This End’ on Q&A on Thursday night, Tony Armstrong said, “I hope I’m wrong, but I think we’ll come out the other side of this with the rich a hell of a lot richer, the powerful a hell of a lot more powerful, and those who aren’t in that basket in a far worse state.

“I think what we’re seeing here is a huge class divide.”

And that is no more apparent than in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) latest report that looked at the direct health impacts of the first year of COVID-19 in Australia. It assessed data up until April/May 2020 (so definitely not including the latest outbreak), and found people in Australia’s lowest socioeconomic group were almost four times more likely to die from COVID than those in the highest socioeconomic group. The data compared five population groups according to their advantage, in income, education and employment.

“Age-standardised mortality rates were 2.6 times as high,” the report states.

“The reason for these inequalities are complex,” says AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon. “And interpreting this finding is complicated by the majority of deaths being in residential aged care facilities. However, these socioeconomic differences do not appear to be driven by aged care facilities being over-represented in lower socioeconomic areas.”

“We know that COVID-19 is very infectious and very severe, but we also know it affects some groups more than others, so that needs to be taken into account in our strategies for managing the virus,” Dr Moon told the ABC.

It’s a disappointing yet unsurprising finding. In last year’s lockdown, Victoria’s outbreak saw nine public housing estates put into a strict lockdown as an early outbreak spread. And NSW’s 2021 outbreak echoes this, where a majority of the state’s COVID cases have hit lower-income areas in the West and South-West of Sydney. Residents are less likely to be able to work from home, more likely to live in overcrowded households, and more likely to face barriers when trying to access health care, says the ABC, putting them at higher risk.

We have also seen COVID spread through our Indigenous community, that has an increased risk of complications from due to a higher rates of underlying health conditions, along with inequalities in housing and healthcare access among other challenges, and cases in the Indigenous community have recently hit 1000. The  Indigenous community is overrepresented in jails, where outbreaks have commenced — there were 166 COVID positive cases in prisons on Friday. A quarter of them were Aboriginal.

The AIHW report is yet another embarrassing example of Australia’s growing class divide, considering Australia’s 31 billionaires have become $85 billion richer since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Oxfam.

And sadly, by the end of it, Tony Armstrong will likely be right.