People living in Luton's most vulnerable communities 'more likely' to get Covid-19

People living in vulnerable communities were more than three times likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than others in Luton at one point during the pandemic, figures suggest.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Monday, 19th July 2021, 1:08 pm
Covid testing (stock image)

The British Red Cross charity has developed a Covid-19 Vulnerability Index tool to identify which neighbourhoods have been the most vulnerable during the pandemic.

Factors include people with pre-existing health problems, those on low incomes and those who are socially isolated.

Using the measure, analytics firm Surgo Ventures compared coronavirus case numbers in the 10 neighbourhoods identified as the most vulnerable in Luton, against the 11 least vulnerable between March 2020 and July this year.

It found that people in these vulnerable areas were 4% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 over the period than those living in non-vulnerable communities.

This inequality peaked during the seven days to September 10, 2020 – when people in vulnerable areas were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19.

However, in the seven days to July 8 – the latest week analysed – there was 9% fewer likelihood of having Covid-19 in the most vulnerable communities than in the least vulnerable.

Surgo Ventures said people in vulnerable neighbourhoods across the UK were more likely to contract Covid-19 than people elsewhere for the vast majority of the past year.

As of July 11, they were 28% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease – with this figure peaking at 166% in September last year, when the virus was not as widespread across the country.

They have also been more likely to be hospitalised and die from coronavirus.

Dr Sema K Sgaier, chief executive of Surgo Ventures, said more needs to be done to address the sustained negative health and socioeconomic impact of the pandemic on people in need.

She added: "Although we are all ready to move on, reopen, and be done with Covid-19, the data shows that Covid-19 is not done inflicting disproportionate harm on the UK’s most vulnerable communities."

The Health Foundation said vulnerable people's health had been declining in recent years as a result of "sustained underinvestment" in public services, and other aspects of society.

Adam Tinson, senior analyst at the charity, said high levels of overcrowding, home working and financial insecurity have made isolating more difficult, and worsened the effects of the pandemic.

And he warned that disadvantaged areas will continue to see the harshest impacts as "Freedom Day" on July 19 approaches, when most social restrictions in England are set to end.

Mr Tinson added: "The Government must ensure adequate support for those who are sick or need to isolate, and increase the financial resilience of those who have been impacted by restrictions – for example, by retaining the temporary increase for Universal Credit.

"The Government has promised to ‘level up’ the country but to level up health they must address the root causes of poor health and invest in people and their communities – their jobs, housing, education and communities."

A Government spokeswoman said help was available for those in need, and a "cautious approach" was being taken with the roadmap.

She added: “Any death is a tragedy and we know Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on certain groups, including people living in deprived areas.

“The vaccines are saving lives and building a wall of protection against the disease, having severely weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations."