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Zakk Brown, Manchester Socialist Party

The Covid-19 death rate is 25% higher in Greater Manchester than in the rest of England. Average life expectancy has fallen by 1.6 years for men and 1.2 for women, an even bigger fall than the average fall for the rest of England – 1.3 years for men and 0.9 for women over the last 13 months.

The big question is why? What makes the material conditions of Greater Manchester’s inhabitants so poor to the point of a staggering increase in tragic deaths?

The Institute of Health Equity (IHE) released a report in June analysing the potential causes, and found that deprivation was key.

The 112-page document states that in Greater Manchester, 20% of its 680,000 population “live in the 10% of most disadvantaged areas nationally”. The result is a series of outcomes that can lead to the high Covid-19 death rate. For example, many people in these deprived areas work in the gig economy, or on zero-hour contracts, or on other contracts drawn up by parasitic bosses, which means if they don’t go to work, they won’t get paid.

Another factor is poor housing and environment. Widespread air pollution, as well as homes with mould owned by exploitative landlords, may contribute to poor lung capacity and, as a result, sufferers are unable to fight off infection.

The IHE argues for changes such as for Greater Manchester to enter into the ‘good landlord scheme’, and a lowering of debt. However, this does not go far enough.

We call for safe, affordable homes for all, an increase in the minimum wage to at least £12 an hour, and for full pay when workers need to self-isolate or take time off sick. By making the super-rich pay, we can lift the weight of the pandemic off the backs of the working class and onto the capitalists, whose drive for profits causes these conditions.