September 2020 Covid-19 news roundup – pretty grim all round really

There are so many news stories relating to increased health risks from Covid-19 for those who are disadvantaged and or are of Black south-Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) heritage that EEE finds it impossible to keep track of them all.

Here is a summary of the data and three news items from the last few weeks

Covid-19 rates

LBTH Covid-19 data shows that in Tower Hamlets there have been a total of 1105 cases and that on 8 September there were no reported cases.

Month Tower Hamlets Hackney Newham
March 116 143 134
April 197 213 241
May 81 71 70
June 60 61 55
July 57 56.4 63

Table: Covid-19 deaths Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham Source: ONS

Office of National Statistics data for age-standardised mortality rates from Covid-19 between 1 March and 31 July 2020 shows that at the peak of the pandemic 197 people died in Tower Hamlets, 213 in Hackney and 241 in Newham. (An age-standardised rate (ASR) is a summary measure of the rate that a population would have if it had a standard age structure)

Covid-19 endemic in deprived areas

On 5th September the Guardian reported that Covid-19 ‘could be endemic in deprived parts of England’, the source for this information being a leaked Public Health England document.

‘Endemic’ means a disease that is regularly found among particular people or in a certain area, in other words it never really goes away.

The document links the highest concentrations of Covid-19 with issues of deprivation, poor quality and crowded housing and ethnicity.

The report is specifically concerned with areas such as Bolton, Greater Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale in the north-west of England but does suggest that lessons learned from the study could be applied to similar areas nationwide such as Tower Hamlets.

As all residents know fixing housing conditions and lifting people out of poverty is not something that can be done quickly. The report indicates that local approaches to lockdown might be a better strategy (not accounting for the competence of the local authority in question).

Disadvantaged and BAME pupils lost more in lockdown

A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) using interviews with 3,000 teachers and headteachers at more than 2,000 primary and secondary schools highlighted the massive challenges they face when schools start again – which is now.

BAME parents of school-age children will not be encouraged by the report’s findings. Some schools asked certain year groups to return during the second half of the summer term but only 56 percent of eligible pupils did attend. Attendance

was lower among pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium (45 percent) and those from BAME backgrounds (49 percent).

A higher proportion of pupils from BAME backgrounds were more likely to report parents having safety concerns than schools with no BAME pupils (65 compared to 35 per cent) which is likely reflecting medical studies showing that individuals from BAME backgrounds are at higher risk from Covid-19.

Over 61 percent of teachers reported that the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had widened since the previous year, with the remainder judging that the ‘disadvantaged learning gap’ had remained the same at 32 per cent or reduced (seven per cent).

Learning gap increased by 46%

Even worse teachers estimated that on average the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers had increased by 46 per cent.

A nation of unhealthy eaters

To pile on the misery even more a Bloomberg report explains how the U.K. has become a nation of unhealthy eaters and how the pandemic makes this even worse.

Simply put the less money parents have the more likely they are to buy junk or processed food which increases the likelihood of their children becoming obese. The derisory amounts Universal Credit leaves families for shopping compounds this. Add to this lockdown restrictions making trips to the shops just plain risky and a bad problem gets a lot worse.

Food banks always provide a good balance in the food they distribute, including fresh fruit and vegetables when available, but they cannot be expected to provide all the nourishment a family needs.

This culture of unhealthy heating is tracked back to the Industrial Revolution when factories in the cities attracted rural workers. One of the many things these workers left behind in the countryside was easier access to fresh food. As a result two-thirds of people in the UK are classed as being overweight or obese with consequent higher risks to their health which in turn makes them more susceptible to coronavirus.

Scatter plot chart of obesity rates of children in most deprived areas.
Obesity rates of children in most deprived areas. ( © Bloomberg)

As ever those in the most deprived areas of our country, like Tower Hamlets, suffer the most and are more likely to be obese than children from more affluent areas.

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