• Thursday, August 11, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

‘Low wages, cramped housing and failures of test-and-trace scheme led to high Covid-19 rates in England’s poorest areas’

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

AN unpublished government report has revealed that low wages, cramped housing and failures of the £22 billion test-and-trace scheme led to high coronavirus rates in England’s most deprived communities.

A classified analysis last month by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), concluded that ‘unmet financial needs’ meant people in poorer areas were less likely to be able to self-isolate because they could not afford to lose income, reported The Guardian.

In two of the UK’s worst-hit areas, Blackburn-with-Darwen and Leicester, the study found that more people seeking financial help to self-isolate had been rejected than accepted.

The report, marked ‘Official Sensitive”, and seen by the Guardian, will pile pressure on ministers to improve government support for the millions of people who do not currently qualify when they are ordered by law to quarantine at home.

According to Dido Harding, the head of NHS test and trace, has estimated that at least 20,000 people a day are not complying fully with isolation orders, allowing the virus to spread.

Senior Tory MPs including Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, have criticised the current £500 package, which is available to a limited number of low earners, as a “gaping hole” in ministers’ approach to the pandemic.

On Tuesday(16), deprivation and ethnicity were for the first time recognised as risk factors for severe Covid in new modelling.

The government team examined six months of data relating to three of England’s coronavirus hotspots – Blackburn-with-Darwen, Bradford and Leicester – and compared them with three other areas with similar socioeconomic issues but lower case rates, the report said.

The report found evidence that areas with a higher proportion of workers in public-facing roles, such as health and social care, taxi drivers or supermarket workers, were likely to experience high infection rates.

It added that ‘existing socioeconomic inequality’ had left black, Asian and minority ethnic communities at greater exposure to Covid-19 as they were more likely to live in cramped and multigenerational housing in deprived areas and hold public-facing jobs.

The JBC report also raised criticisms of test and trace, the government’s flagship scheme that has cost the UK more than five times the amount spent on vaccines to date.

It also said contact-tracing data had not been given to local authorities quickly enough to contain outbreaks.

“We do not comment on leaks. We recognise this is an incredibly difficult time for many people and

We launched the test-and-trace support payment to help people who cannot work from home to self-isolate. We are working with England’s 314 local authorities to monitor the effectiveness of the scheme – including any impact on groups who may be ineligible for it,” a government spokesperson told The Guardian.

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