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North inequalities cost UK billions over first year of pandemic

A new report has found that Northerners were more likely to die from Covid-19, spent nearly a month and a half more time in lockdowns, suffered worse mental health and were made poorer than the rest of England during the first year of the pandemic.

The researchers at a range of Northern universities, including the University of York, Manchester and Liverpool, found that inequalities in the North during the first year of the pandemic could cost the UK economy up to £7.3bn in lost productivity.

The report found that wages in the North were lower than the rest of England before the pandemic, and these fell further during the Covid-19 pandemic, whereas wages increased in the rest of the country.

The unemployment rate in the North was also 19% higher than in the rest of England, according to the researchers.

man in white crew neck shirt

Professor Clare Bambra of Newcastle University said: ‘Our report shows how regional health inequalities before Covid have resulted in an unequal pandemic – with higher rates of ill health, death and despair in the North. The economic impact of the lockdown is also looking likely to exacerbate the regional economic divide. The government’s levelling up agenda needs to seriously address health inequalities in the North – for all generations.’

Health inequalities lead for the Northern Health Science Alliance, Hannah Davies, added: ‘As we approach autumn with uncertainty around an expected increase in Covid-19 cases and with increasing questions about what “Levelling Up” will mean for the North of England it is clear significant action must be taken in tackling health inequalities.

‘The Government has made clear its commitment to level-up and to tackle health inequalities, this report shows the importance of making that a reality with significant funding to tackle ill health through significant investment into public health and the NHS in the North of England.’

Professor David Taylor-Robinson of Liverpool University said: ‘Even before the pandemic we were seeing extremely concerning trends in rising health inequalities with life expectancy going backwards, particularly for women in the most disadvantaged areas in the North of England – the same areas affected by rising poverty and cuts to services that support health.

‘The pandemic arrived in the middle of this worrying scene and amplified existing inequalities. As outlined in this new report, poor populations in the North have been hit the hardest in terms of Covid-related mortality, and our analysis shows that much of this is due to pre-existing deprivation and poor health. Building back fairer will require long term investment to address the root causes of poor health in the North.’

The full report can be read here.

In related news, Manchester City Council has committed to creating a fairer city where residents can all benefit from the city’s success.

Photo by engin akyurt

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