We are more than a year on after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. We have witnessed the disproportionate impact of covid-19 in the UK, Brazil, US and other countries, as well as the ongoing covid-19 situation in India and other parts of South Asia. It seems the right time to reflect on why public health approaches to pandemic management have had so much less traction than medical ones. 

When data started emerging about covid-19 last January, it was clear that it was highly infectious, that communities living and working in densely packed environments were at greater risk, and that it was disproportionately affecting older people and those with underlying conditions. These observations are not new: society’s structural inequalities tend to be mirrored during pandemics.

The UK government’s first Coronavirus action plan adopted a medical approach, focused on “protecting the NHS”, treating those with covid-19, and…

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