New analysis reveals stark
Covid-19 impact on England’s most deprived areas

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Covid-19 infections rates in some of the most deprived council areas of England were nine times worse than those areas deemed to be more socially and economically well off, underlining the unequal impact of the pandemic on local communities, according to brand-new analysis from LCP.

The new analysis examines the six-month period between July and the end of December 2020 combining ONS deprivation data and LCP’s Covid-19 infections tracker. It reveals that in areas such as Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley, estimated cumulative infection rates per 100,000 of population were 13,691 and 12,901. This compared to just 1,502 and 1,548 in places such as Torridge and South Hams. Other highly infected areas included Pendle (12,083), Havering (11,746) and Oldham (11,538).

Ten local authorities with the highest Covid-19 cumulative infection rates from 1st July to 31st December 2020

Rank Local Authority ONS deprivation score  Total population Total Infections Cumulative infection rate Cumulative infections per 100,000 people
1 Blackburn with Darwen 36.0 145,626 19,938 13.7% 13,691
2 Burnley 37.8 86,681 11,183 12.9% 12,901
3 Pendle  30.7 89,772 10,847 12.1% 12,083
4 Havering 16.8 252,820 29,697 11.7% 11,746
5 Oldham 33.2 230,685 26,617 11.5% 11,538
6 Redbridge 17.2 296,265 33,736 11.4% 11,387
7 Rochdale 34.4 216,602 23,941 11.1% 11,053
8 Swale 27.1 146,553 15,938 10.9% 10,875
9 Manchester 40.0 538,386 58,199 10.8% 10,810
10 Barking and Dagenham 32.8 205,491 22,089 10.7% 10,749

Table 4. Ten local authorities with the lowest Covid-19 cumulative infection rates from 1st July to 31st December 2020

Rank Local Authority ONS deprivation score Total population Total infections Cumulative infection rate Cumulative infections per 100,000 people
315 Torridge  23.3 67,177 1,009 1.5% 1,502
314 South Hams  13.7 85,738 1,327 1.5% 1,548
313 Teignbridge  15.9 131,821 2,234 1.7% 1,695
312 Cornwall and Isles of Scilly 23.0 561,416 9,524 1.7% 1,696
311 North Norfolk  21.1 103,384 1,919 1.9% 1,856
310 West Devon 18.1 54,985 1,026 1.9% 1,866
309 Mid Devon 16.9 80,763 1,526 1.9% 1,889
308 Dorset 15.7 372,715 7,060 1.9% 1,894
307 Mid Suffolk 13.2 102,223 2,089 2.0% 2,044
306 East Suffolk 19.6 245,189 5,086 2.1% 2,074

The association between deprivation and cumulative Covid-19 infection rates persisted across all nine English regions, but with large variations. Infection rates were 41% higher in the North West (8.4% of the population had Covid-19 from July to December 2020), North East (6.4%), and Yorkshire and the Humber (7.3%) combined than in the rest of the country.

Commenting, Andrew Pijper, lead author of the analysis said: “Our analysis highlights the vast variation in Covid-19 infections across the country and the disproportionate impact it is having on communities which has been consistent throughout this pandemic. After the national lockdown ends, it will be important to manage restrictions carefully, with balanced and data-driven measures at the local-level, to help direct funds, rebuild communities and avoid worsening of these health gaps further.”

Commenting, Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, Head of LCP’s Health Analytics team, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all, but its impacts have been far from equal. Those from more deprived communities have been hardest by the pandemic with the highest rates of infections, deaths but the impacts on employment and education have been felt hardest in these communities too.

“More deprived areas – places with worse housing, fewer employment opportunities and higher crime rates – had substantially higher mortality rates than less deprived areas before the pandemic, and Covid-19 has exacerbated this gap further.

The new analysis also revealed the impact of population density. It found that 7.4% of people in areas with a population density greater than 1,000 people per square kilometre were infected with Covid-19 in the last six months of 2020, compared to only 4.6% in more sparsely populated areas.

Living in an urban area was associated with much higher cumulative Covid-19 infection rates. The findings suggest that, in the more sparsely populated northern parts of the country, the worst infection rates were concentrated in hotspots such as Merseyside and Greater Manchester, while infection levels were spread more evenly in the more densely populated, more interconnected South.

Data Methodology

The LCP Covid-19 Tracker combines daily testing data from Public Health England (PHE), which reports positive cases on a local authority level, with regional surveillance data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS figures are compiled by testing a random sample of the population, which enables them to pick up asymptomatic cases that are not identified in the PHE testing data. This gives a more comprehensive picture of the scale of infections across the community. 

The LCP Covid-19 Tracker combines the two data sources with a traditional actuarial technique – the chain ladder method – to produce comprehensive case estimates at Lower Tier Local Authorities (District, Borough or City Councils, LTLAs). These are the smallest level of geography available, with 315 in England. A full description of the methods deployed can be found here.

The ONS Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) (ONS Deprivation Score) is a composite measure of the relative deprivation of local areas within the UK, taking account factors such as income, education, health, crime, and housing.  The Government publishes IMD scores by Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA) which is at postcode level with around 35,000 LSOAs across the country. A higher score corresponds to a higher level of deprivation. LCP generated IMD estimates for each LTLA by taking a population-weighted average of the IMD scores of the LSOAs within each LTLA.

These IMD scores were then integrated into the LCP Covid-19 Tracker to estimate the cumulative Covid-19 infection rates across LTLAs in England from July to December 2020 according to deprivation status.

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LCP Covid-19 Tracker

LCP Covid-19 Tracker

Deprivation Analysis

Tracking the current prevalence of Covid-19 across the country is vital to inform national and local measures. The LCP Tracker uses ONS and PHE data to provide an estimate of current prevalence of Covid-19 by region across England. It can also measure the association between infection levels and deprivation.

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