Jennifer Williams: ‘The North in a Time of Covid’

Manchester Evening News

“The story of how poor policy helped coronavirus rip through some of England’s poorest Northern communities did not begin with the discovery of Covid-19. Its prologue was written during decades of central failures to properly serve, fund or listen to those places. From Manchester we predicted the consequences even as policies were landing, heavily, from hundreds of miles away: from the perversity of hollow, monolithic central systems to the hoarding of vital information within them and the prioritising of rhetoric over experience. We were the first to query local lockdown policies that failed to define either ‘local’ or ‘lockdown’. Through a long Covid summer, we tried to explain how life in Greater Manchester was meant to be lived, as Parliament lapsed into recess, ministers changed our rules day by day and the virus bubbled endemically in our poorest populations, outside of the national spotlight. Autumn’s showdown may have shocked government but it didn’t surprise us. A year on, the North West has recorded the highest death rates in the country. But behind those numbers sit older, deeper inequality and neglect that will take far longer to address than Covid-19 itself.”