Covid-19 impacts Newham more, 214 confirmed deaths & why community testing and contact tracing is key
So now we have the evidence, which I reported three weeks ago and since: ethnic minorities and those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods are disproportionally impacted by Covid-19 in both infections and deaths. This comes at the end of the week I reported that 214 people have now died in Newham because of the virus so far.
Yesterday, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released figures which highlight the uneven impact of Coronavirus across different communities and areas of the country so far. Examining the impact of deprivation on the Covid-19 mortality rates between the 1st March and 17th April 2020, the ONS looked at the 20,283 people whose deaths were registered by then, and where Covid-19 was listed on the death certificate. The ONS found that during this period the rate in the most deprived areas in England was 118% higher than in the least deprived.
Specifically, the data showed that London suffered over 50 percent more than any other region in the country, over the seven-week period analysed; and that the local authorities with the highest Covid-19 mortality rates were all in the capital. Newham has been particularly hard hit, with deaths involving Covid-19 recorded between March 1 and April 17, the mortality rate was 144.3 deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Brent (141.5) and then Hackney (127.4). By contrast, the rate was 25.3 deaths per 100,000 in the least deprived areas of England and Wales.
The analysis, which you can read here, also shows the Covid-19 mortality rate in the most deprived areas of England has been higher among men (76.7 deaths per 100,000 population) than women (39.6). Overall, the ONS makes clear that while general mortality rates are normally higher in more deprived areas, Covid-19 appears to be taking them higher still.
It’s also why we took action three weeks ago to boost our outreach to ethnic minority communities when reports first emerged about the disproportionate impact on Black, Minority and Ethnic communities, through our #HelpNewham local hub (which has a multi-lingual outreach team and phone service) because Newham is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, as well as among the most deprived. You can read more about health and income inequalities in Newham in the section below.
Overall, these figures are extremely alarming, and that’s why I’ve called for more health funding to be prioritised for deprived areas, including increased funding to boost our public health work, which has been decimated over the years. If it wasn’t already clear, councils like Newham urgently need more funding from the government now and in the future as we progress with Covid-19 ‘recovery.
Importantly in Newham, we also know that the health inequalities are not uniform across ethnic groups, and the same applies to Covid-19, so grouping all minorities together misses important differences. That’s why our approach to addressing health inequalities in the borough, including the impact of Covid-19, is driven by understanding why these differences exist so that we can take the necessary action required locally, and demand action from the government where required by them. It’s also why we’re going to analyse the ONS data really carefully, to understand what has accelerated the mortality rate increase over the 7-week period studied by the ONS.
You can listen to an interview that I did earlier today about the ONS research on the BBC here (at 39.13 minutes in and note, you’ll sign in with your BBC Sounds account or register for one). You can also read an interview I gave to the Financial Times about the ONS data here (paywall) and published yesterday.
At the Downing Street briefing today, we heard that 1129,907 tests have now been carried out in the UK; and of those18,2260 people have tested positive - an increase of 4,806 cases since yesterday. In London, Covid-19 infections have increased by 180 to 24,477 in the last 24 hours, and 948 of those infected are from Newham.
While there’s been a decrease of people currently in hospital with Covid-19 at 14,695 (down from 15,111 yesterday), of those who’ve tested positive across all settings, a total of 28,131 have now died. This is an increase of 621 fatalities since yesterday.
The government also announced £76 million in new funding today to ensure that victims of domestic violence get ‘priority need status’ to access local housing services more easily and avoid being made homeless. The money will go towards charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse and victims of modern slavery. I really welcome tsi good news, but we need to examine the detail carefully because we need to make sure that there are enough genuinely affordable homes for people to be moved into, and that this applies to those affected by no recourse to public funds as well.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister said we have ‘passed the peak’, but I am not convinced. That’s because he was referring specifically to hospital admissions and deaths. But the death toll in domestic, care home and other community settings is telling us another story and why I believe we still have a long way to go.
I’m urging great caution as the government considers the potential easing of restrictions following an announcement by the Prime Minister that he will publish plans next week. Why? Because, the government has to take into account the heightened vulnerability of communities like ours in Newham, otherwise it could lead to second wave and more deaths. Read more about this in the section below.
While the government has now passed its ‘100,000 a day tests’ pledge, I’ve been calling for community testing and contact tracing of Covid-19 cases - and in the coming weeks this will be our focus in Newham. At the moment tests are only available for care home workers, other key workers and the people they live with. Social care workers and care home residents with or without symptoms can now be tested be tested as well, and earlier today a mobile site for testing opened in Rick Roberts Way in Stratford. You can find out if you are eligible for a test and how to book by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test.
As we come to end of Lockdown Britain week 6, please continue to follow the restrictions in place this weekend. Please follow the government advice, which is to only go out once a day, stay and shop as local as possible, don’t gather in groups and keep two metres apart. Otherwise we’ll face a devastating impact in Newham – amongst many of our friends, families, co-workers and neighbours living here.
I know that many residents are upset and angry when they see others flouting the advice, that’s why the Council is encouraging residents to report any concerns to Newham police directly on 101 or via twitter at @MPSNewham. While the council doesn’t have the power to enforce the restrictions (because under the Coronavirus Act only the police can), we do monitor the situation in our parks and high streets and liaise daily with the local police.
Yours in solidarity,
Labour Mayor of Newham
Follow what I'm up to on Twitter: @rokhsanafiaz
P.S. if you've sent me a message, I am so sorry for not being able to respond as yet, but I will soon and I really appreciate your patience during this time.