'The disease is not a great leveller': Emily Maitlis praised for frank assessment of social impacts of coronavirus

Colin Drury

Emily Maitlis has been praised for an “extraordinary” introduction to BBC’s Newsnight in which she took to task misleading language surrounding the coronavirus crisis and slammed suggestions the pandemic was impacting everyone equally.

The combative host took aim at ministers for implying that those who recovered from Covid-19 somehow displayed more fighting spirit than those who did not.

“You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the prime minister’s colleagues will tell us,” she said during the opening to Wednesday night’s show.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab - who is currently deputising while Boris Johnson remains in intensive care - has said he was sure the PM would pull through because “he’s a fighter”.

In the 90-second monologue, Maitlis also dismissed suggestions that the worst effects of the pandemic are impacting on everyone equally.

“The disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone - rich or poor - suffers the same,” the 49-year-old said.

“This is a myth which needs debunking. Those on the front line right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shop keepers – are disproportionately the lowest paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.”

And she added: “Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown a lot tougher. Those who work in manual jobs will be unable to work from home.”

The frank assessment was widely praised on social media. “As great and as brief a comment on the truth of the pandemic as we’ve yet seen,” noted one commentator.


“This virus is not affecting everyone equally,” added another. “Excellently put.”

A third was more concise: “extraordinary,” they simply wrote.

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