By Daniel Wood
Poorer parts of the UK might have to accept Covid-19 becoming an ‘endemic’ – according to a leaked Public Health England report.
The report suggests that the months-long UK lockdown was not effective for areas with poor housing quality, high levels of deprivation, and large BAME communities.
It reportedly investigates in-depth links between housing, poverty, ethnicity, and high levels of Covid-19 in areas in the north-west.
It looks to take lessons from the region to be applied throughout the UK.
An endemic is different from an epidemic in that it belongs to a specific area or is more prominent in a specific area. Whereas an epidemic is a disease that affects a large number of people within a population.
The report reads: “The overall analysis suggests Bolton, Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale never really left the epidemic phase – and that nine of the 10 boroughs (of Greater Manchester) are currently experiencing an epidemic phase.”
All the highest Covid rates in the UK are in the north-west. These places being Bolton, Bradford, Blackburn, Darwen, Oldham and Salford.
Bolton had around five times as many cases as some of the least affected areas like Southampton, Kent, and Milton Keynes. They had more than 98 cases per 100,000 people last week.
The study points out that each region of the UK has experienced its own epidemic journey. The north peaked later than the rest of the UK and the north-west, Yorkshire and Humber, and East Midlands have failed to return to anywhere near-zero Covid status. Other regions have been able to return to a near pre-Covid state.
Building a Better System
The report calls into question whether lockdowns were effective in these areas and it ponders that if these places were unable to reach near-zero Covid status during full lockdown then how will current restrictions be able to work?
Gabriel Skully, a Public Health Professor at Bristol University said: “The only way forward is to build a system which provides much better, more locally tailored responses.
“There is no integrated find, test, trace, isolate and support system at the moment. The data on housing is extraordinarily important. Overcrowded households are part of public health history.
“Housing conditions are so important and always have been, whether it was for cholera or tuberculosis or Covid-19.
“Doing something about housing conditions for someone who has an active infection is extremely important and it is not something that can be handled by a call centre run by a commercial company hundreds of miles away.”
The leak came to light as former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair piled pressure on the Government to ramp up testing to help struggling businesses.
Public Health England are yet to comment on the leak.
Long Term Effects
To add to this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently warned that the coronavirus “may never go away”.
WHO emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan warned that even if a vaccine is found, controlling the virus will require a “massive effort”.
Almost 300,000 people worldwide are reported to have died from the virus. More than 4.3m cases have been recorded.
Dr Ryan said on a virtual press conference from Geneva, “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.
“HIV has not gone away – but we have come to terms with the virus.”
There are currently more than 100 potential vaccines in development but that does not mean it will eradicate the virus.
This has been proven with other illnesses like the measles, as there is a vaccine for it, but it still has not been fully eliminated.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed that it is still possible to control the virus, but he warned that there is no guaranteed way of easing restrictions without triggering a second wave of infections.
Dr Ryan added: “There is some magical thinking going on that lockdowns work perfectly and that unlocking lockdowns will go great. Both are fraught with dangers.”
It is safe to say that in the next few months in the UK will be very important in terms of which direction the virus goes.