Images: Pexels, Public Health England, Leicester City Council
Leicester’s Covid 19 crisis continues to lead the headlines. And a report issued by Public Health England (PHE) makes it clear...
The connection we’ve highlighted between new diagnoses and deprivation keeps getting stronger.
The report highlights analysis of a wide range of factors which seem to be behind this flare up. And also illustrates just how ‘left in the dark’ local authorities and other officials have felt.
The time lag between their requests for accurate data from the government, and them receiving it, are concerning. As is the level of detail authorities have then been provided with. Much of this information has been lacking even a very basic level of breakdown. Which is absolutely crucial for them to understand the situation on the ground - and take meaningful action.
So the PHE Rapid Investigation Team’s report couldn’t be more welcomed, by Leicester's local officials. As it sets out, at least, more detailed initial findings.
What does the PHE report tell us?
Well, as we know, a total of 3,216 Covid-19 cases have been reported in the city in the last 14 days. This equates to a rate of 90.54 cases per 10,000 population.
The proportion of positive PCR tests is rising, which suggests a genuine increase in new infections. And is not, as some had implied, related to increasing test rates.
Numbers of cases
A total of 944 cases have been reported – 71 from Pillar 1 testing and 873 from Pillar 2. This is explained in more detail in the table below:
To set this in context, the figures from similar local authority areas across the country (in terms of size, demographics, etc) are included below: The table shows the rates of cases per 100,000 population.
What we can see here is that June's infection rate is much higher in Leicester than in similar areas. And other authorities seem to have achieved better control of the situation, in the same time period.
Age groups affected
The findings highlight that the largest increase in cases is in those aged under 18. And the highest number overall is within the working age population. The mean age of people most impacted is 40, which is lower than the national mean age, of 49.
What causes are implicated?
Out of 22 ‘situations of interest’ related to Leicester postcodes in the last 3 weeks, many have been associated with food factories/outlets. And there are 4 where shops and supermarkets have reported staff with Covid 19. As we’ve mentioned previously, there have also been, as yet, unproven suggestions of links to the local textile industry.
Care homes are now much less affected here than in late March/ early April - which suggests that the measures introduced are protecting these settings. And the location of the local hospital is not thought to be an issue, at the moment.
The report also points at school attendance as a possible factor (around 38% of all age school provision is now available here). However, it’s important to state, at this stage, that there is no data or analysis available to corroborate this.
The link with deprivation
So, to return to our main point, how does the link between Covid cases and deprivation relate to all this?
Well, the map below shows the most affected areas in Leicester are in the North East. And, when you compare this with the City Council’s own map of deprivation, the connection is clear. The areas highlighted all sit in the top three quartiles.
It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that Leicester, as a whole, is in the top third of most deprived regions in England. And.that 44% of the city is in the most deprived 20% of our society.
When you consider recent 'situations of interest too, they all point to settings of lower waged employment. Which increases the likelihood that people’s income, and living conditions are all factors in this flare up.
The link between Covid 19 and austerity
The trend we’re highlighting here follows a pattern that's emerged right across the UK- and the rest of Europe. Where links between austerity, low paid manufacturing work and poor housing are also being flagged up.
A recent report by a Leicester economist also pointed to connections between new cases and areas worst hit by austerity. And this is a theme we will explore more fully in the future.
Sadly, it's these kinds of areas that can also least afford the effects of local,lockdowns. And the subsequent impact on people’s businesses and jobs .it raises the alarm too about possible links to insecure and potentially exploitative working practices.
And,,far from being the ‘great leveler’ this pandemic was considered in its early stages, the virus now appears to be hitting vulnerable communities most.
So what should we do about this? We fear the answer is going to be complicated. And will involve a national, as well as local, multi-agency response. But surely whatever form this takes, it must start with making the best possible information available.
In a timely, transparent and meaningful way.