At the beginning of 2020, the media emphasized the "unprecedented" nature of the pandemic. However, while the COVID-19 pandemic has many novel aspects, in many ways it has exacerbated familiar fault lines of inequality and pre-existing socioeconomic inequalities. During the pandemic, wide-ranging societal preventive measures, such as "lockdowns," were imposed, health resources were redistributed, and nonCOVID-19-related treatments were postponed or canceled. In the media, public debates about pandemic response often pitted public health against public welfare, as if responding to a pandemic required a choice of one or the other.

Using longitudinal data from qualitative interviews conducted as part of the Solidarity in Times of Pandemic (SolPan) consortium, we examined the reported impact of the pandemic on health and wealth in six European countries. Through analysis of 482 interviews, we found that the supposed dichotomy between life and the economy is rapidly breaking down in the tensions and connections that exist in participants' accounts of the reproduction of inequality.

Health- and wealth-related inequalities intersected to create the "second pandemic"-a term we borrowed from one of our participants to explain the various forms of devastation that accompanied the pandemic. We argue that the pandemic did not simply create new social and economic inequalities, but to a large extent reinforced, made more visible, and exacerbated structural inequalities by worsening the conditions of the poorest. The pandemic represents a critical juncture that exacerbates these existing structural inequalities, but also provides an opportunity to work toward a better solution.


Amelia Fiske, Ilaria Galasso, Johanna Eichinger, Stuart McLennan, Isabella Radhuber, Bettina Zimmermann, and Barbara Prainsack. 2021. "The second pandemic: Examining structural inequality through reverberations of COVID-19 in Europe." Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 292,