BBC current affairs host Emily Maitlis has delivered a stinging broadside to UK government officials for their language surrounding the coronavirus.
In a clip that has since been widely shared on social media, Maitlis opened Newsnight on Wednesday (local time) by taking politicians to task for implying that those with a “strength of character” could survive the virus.
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 9, 2020
Maitlis said “the language around COVID-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading. You do not survive the illness through fortitude … whatever the Prime Minister’s colleagues will tell us.”
Her words appeared a pointed reference to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson — currently being treated in intensive care for COVID-19 — would beat the virus because he is a “fighter.”
Maitlis, who Australians will recall for her probing interview last year with Prince Andrew, went on to say the idea the disease was a “leveler” between rich and poor was a “myth.”
“Those serving on the front line right now — bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce,” she said.
“They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.”
Maitlis said that inequality meant the lockdown would be experienced very differently by the rich and poor – with those who live in tower blocks finding it tougher.
“Those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home. This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare, and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health,” Maitlis said.
The United Kingdom has been one of the countries worst hit, with 7,097 deaths recorded and 60,733 cases, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The country has been in lockdown since March 24 when Mr Johnson issued a stay-at-home order, directing people to only leave their homes for essential shopping, daily exercise or for work if they cannot do so from home.
Authorities in 210 countries and territories have reported more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases worldwide since China reported the outbreak in December.