Envisioning the new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic: Inequality, COVID-19 and vulnerability

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Dharmendra Bahadur, Dhami
Huang, Zhouzheng
Awkit, Graciela
Santayakul, Sirikanya
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Global Campus Human Rights
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected millions of people across the globe. The pandemic inarguably impacted the social and economic lives of all people, especially in vulnerable and minority groups. This research aimed to identify the pre-pandemic discourse of normalcy among vulnerable and minority groups, and a split in the discourse of the ‘new normal’ which lessens the likelihood that a new-normal regime will emerge to enhance the resilience of these groups in future crises. The research includes cases of vulnerable and minority groups from four Asian countries: orphans in Thailand, Dalits in Nepal, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Philippines, and elderly people in China. Orphan children in Thailand experienced devastating consequences from the pandemic, being deprived of education, government assistance, medical care and vaccination. Dalits in Nepal are the victims of age-old caste-based discrimination, and they were further discriminated against by pandemic relief distribution and recovery programs and in quarantines. They were excluded from government remedies, denied admission to hospitals, and expelled from work places. Some starved to death due to financial and food crises, and their children were deprived of basic rights including education. In the Philippines, the pandemic had an appalling impact on OFWs and their families, exacerbating non-payment of wages, wage theft and discrimination. Government job preservation guidelines weren’t effective for OFWs, especially for undocumented migrant workers. Finally, in China, elderly people were one of the vulnerable groups most impacted by the pandemic. They faced declines in service quality and mental health, and a shortage of professional staff in nursing homes. Their lack of digital literacy excluded them from pandemic monitoring, online medical care and contactless government services. Through these four cases, the research identifies gaps in the pandemic response and remedies of the states for the vulnerable and minority groups. The paper proposes that, instead of a model treating these health crises, economic crises and social crises as consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, they should be treated as separate issues for specific minority and vulnerable groups to allow appropriate responses to the pandemic-induced challenges that they experience.
COVID-19 pandemic, Asia, inequality, minorities, vulnerable groups, social rights, economic rights, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, China
Dharmendra Bahadur Dhami, Zhouzheng Huang, Graciela Ann Awkit and Sirikanya Santayakul. “Envisioning the new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic: Inequality, COVID-19 and vulnerability.” (2001) 5 Global Campus Human Rights Journal 113-130 http://dx.doi.org/10.25330/1356