Londoners living in overcrowded homes, working in high Covid-risk employment sectors or struggling to meet housing costs should be added to population groups already recognised as being particularly susceptible to the impact of the coronavirus, according to a new statistical study.
Analysis of a range of social and economic indicators by researchers with the New Policy Institute found that Londoners open to combinations of high likelihood of contracting Covid-19 because of their jobs or accommodation and the damage it is doing to the capital’s economy should be classified as vulnerable alongside other groups already seen as being so, most notably older people.
The study also identified areas of Greater London possessing the most marked risk factors, with Brent, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Newham figuring strongly across the spectrum of measurements, Barking & Dagenham, Hounslow and Waltham Forest having notably marked economic and housing risks, and Harrow showing a very high Covid-19 mortality rate.
Occupations picked out as facing higher risks than most of catching or transmitting the virus include care workers and various kinds of health workers, among them nurses, dental nurses, ambulance staff, midwives and paramedics. Teachers, waiters and taxi drivers also fall into this higher risk category.
Using figures from Public Health England covering March until July, they draw on “infection fatality ratios” – the chance of someone infected with the virus dying from it – the researchers found statistical links at borough level between Covid-19 fatalities and housing conditions which suggest that infection is more likely to be transmitted within overcrowded households and those containing more than one generation of adults.
The report emphasises that contracting Covid-19 is far more likely to be fatal among Londoners over the age of 65 but also shows that “working age” Londoners have made up a significant 19% of the total.
Among under-65s, the risk of dying from Covid-19 in the most deprived 20% of local areas was double that of those the least deprived 20%, men faced “more than double the risk for women” and black Londoners as a whole were at 63% higher risk than white British counterparts. By contrast, among over-65s the “only inequalities” were a 27% higher fatality risk faced by men compared with women and an 11% higher risk faced by Pakistani or Bangladeshi Londoners compared with White British Londoners.
The data also show that more than 40% of the working age residents of eight boroughs lost income over the April-June period, and that people working in sectors where the likelihood of job losses is greatest – defined as those with the highest proportions of furloughed workers – such as construction, retail, hospitality, entertainment and the arts, are unevenly spread across the capital.
For example, Enfield and Kensington & Chelsea have the highest rates of employed residents who work in hotels, restaurants, distribution and other services (29% and 28% respectively) while the highest proportion in construction and manufacturing, 19%, is found in Barking & Dagenham. The latter borough also has the highest percentage of furloughed employed residents in both these sector categories at 45%, followed by Enfield with 40%, Newham with 39% and Redbridge with 38%.
Another area the study explores is “precarious housing” circumstances, which covers private sector renters and mortgage-payers. It points out that the housing element of Universal Credit might not fully cover the rent of people who lose income and that those with mortgages are not eligible for the benefit’s housing element.
New Policy Institute Director Peter Kenway said the research “shows that the vulnerabilities flowing from the pandemic and the accompanying recession affect more and different people than those who are usually seen as vulnerable. This broadening of what it means to be vulnerable is not just about those most at risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19, but also those most affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.”
Bharat Mehta, chief executive of Trust for London, which funded the study, said it “highlights the scale and pattern of vulnerability across London” and that “this broadening of what it means to be vulnerable is a useful lens to consider appropriate policy responses”.
Read the New Policy Institute report in full here.
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