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Coronavirus hits ill and disabled people hardest, so why is society writing us off?

1 160 1411
11.03.2020

It won’t come for you. This is the general message about coronavirus, as the UK prepares for the outbreak to possibly worsen. Read the many media reports and a common line comes out: “Most people recover, and fatalities are largely only among those with underlying health conditions.” It is a sentiment I have heard constantly in recent days, supposedly as a form of reassurance. It’s understandable: facts are vital to establish in a climate where myths can spread as quickly as the virus, and the World Health Organization has made it clear that younger and healthy people are much less vulnerable to serious harm. But it does raisethe question: what about the rest of us?

The message that coronavirus is relatively safe for 98% of the population isn’t exactly reassuring if you fall into the other 2%. As someone with a respiratory condition, I’ve had to laugh each time I’ve heard it. Intentional or not, 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. In a culture where ableism (prejudice against disabled people) 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.

This isn’t just symbolic – it has practical ramifications. If the wider public is complacent about the virus harming disabled........

© The Guardian