Wednesday, October 07, 2020

It's always the poor who suffers

 Analysis of official figures shows most deprived areas are bearing brunt of second wave of Covid.

England’s poorest communities are nearly four times as likely to face lockdown restrictions as the wealthiest areas, a Guardian analysis has found, as local leaders warned of a “winter of dangerous discontent” in the north of England without urgent financial support.

A study of official figures shows a wide disparity in the resurgence of coronavirus across the country, with the most deprived areas bearing the brunt of the second wave.

In Liverpool, almost two-thirds of the areas with the highest infection rates were among the poorest 10% of communities in England. More than half of Birmingham and Manchester’s worst-hit areas are among the country’s most deprived.

In the six weeks to the end of September Covid-19 cases have consistently been more prevalent and rates of infection have been higher in the poorest parts of the country, according to a Guardian analysis of data from Public Health England.

The most deprived communities in England were flagged as areas of concern, meaning restrictions on social contact were being considered, almost four times as often as the wealthiest due to the number of new Covid-19 cases.

The figures cast new light on how the virus has spread throughout the second wave. In the first wave people living in the poorest parts of England and Wales were twice as likely to die from the virus. However, there was no data tracking the number of cases on a local level.

Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, said there was a Dickensian level of poverty in the city, with extremely deprived areas with high Covid-19 levels alongside wealthier boroughs with far fewer cases.

“Ten years of austerity is now coming home to roost. We’ve got 68,000 new people claiming universal credit, people asking for crisis loans, we’ve got massive health inequalities and infant mortality is now the highest it’s ever been,” he said. Anderson said he feared the second wave could be more harmful than the first for the city’s poorest communities because they are now coping with a “potent cocktail” of an influx of university students, along with job losses following the withdrawal of the furlough scheme, and the annual effect of winter bugs.

Analysis from Public Health England also shows people living in the most deprived 20% of England have generally had higher rates of infection since mid-June.

“In more densely populated areas the infection will spread faster, particularly in urban areas and areas where there’s overcrowded housing, which tends to be more common in more deprived areas. There’s also evidence that people living in more deprived areas are less likely to be able to work from home, are more likely to continue to go to workplaces where they’re exposed to the infection and are more likely to work in key-worker professions, so even during lockdown they were likely to be going out.

“But also they may find it much harder to self-isolate if they do have symptoms and one of the main reasons is they are less likely to have a financial safety net that allows them not to go to work,” says Tim Elwell-Sutton, assistant director of the Health Foundation.

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