Revealed: Norfolk’s poorest areas have four times as many Covid cases as the richest
PUBLISHED: 08:18 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:42 15 October 2020
Three quarters of all coronavirus cases in Norfolk’s urban areas are in its most deprived neighbourhoods, an investigation can reveal.
Figures analysed by this newspaper show that just over 75pc of the 1,506 Covid cases recorded in Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Norwich since early March are in neighbourhoods ranked in the bottom half for deprivation.
The richest areas of the same three places recorded 374 cases - four times fewer.
The affected areas also have a higher concentrations of older residents.
In Great Yarmouth, almost two thirds of its 431 coronavirus cases are in areas which are in the bottom third for deprivation.
The town’s two most deprived areas, Gorleston West and Yarmouth Parade, have the most coronavirus cases, with 66 recorded since March.
Norfolk’s director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, linked higher cases in deprived areas to people’s work, with those in lower paid jobs less able to work from home, and therefore exposing themselves to the virus.
Dr Smith also said there was a higher proportion of cases among Norfolk’s BAME communities but suggested this could be due to higher levels of local testing among hospital and care staff, a sector that employs a lot of BAME workers.
“Workers live in these areas because the housing is cheap,” Dr Smith said. “The recent data has been very much driven by workplaces.”
The boss of patient group Healthwatch Norfolk, Alex Stewart, said the data reflected “a host of health inequalities in Norfolk that have existed going back years”.
Reverend Matthew Price, from Mary Magdalene church, runs a foodbank in the area. He said the number of users had tripled during lockdown and was on the rise again.
“It levelled off and then dropped in July and August, but now the numbers of users has shot back up, and it’s more and more families that we haven’t seen before,” he said.
“We’re talking about the folk who were just about coping before the pandemic hit. That extra strain has pushed families over the edge, economically and in some cases with their mental health.”
He added: “I’m very worried about what is coming. Lots of families here rely on seasonal employment, and that has just gone.
“The impact of the virus is going to be felt for a long time.”
In King’s Lynn 262 of the 438 virus cases recorded are in areas ranked in the bottom third for deprivation - 60pc.
The neighbourhood with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the county is Springwood and Fairfield, which saw an outbreak during the last lockdown.
There, 188 cases have been recorded since March.
Fairstead ward councillor Margaret Wilkinson said she was worried things would “never be the same again”.
“We have three sheltered accommodation complexes in the ward, as well as housing for young people with nowhere to live”, she said.
“It’s been really hard and the whole community is very concerned about what will come next.”
In Norwich, meanwhile, the outbreak at the UEA has pushed the affluent area of the University and Avenues to the top of the city’s coronavirus cases table.
Dr Smith said the area around the University of East Anglia is an example of how the second wave could be different in the city.
“In Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn the ages of people catching the virus are between 20-50,” she said. “In Norwich it is all under the age of 30.
“The worry is that when the number gets high it will spread into the more vulnerable population.”
Across the city, 64pc of 286 cases recorded were in the five poorest neighbourhoods, with Earlham, City Centre West and Bowthorpe the worst affected.
Bowthorpe councillor Sally Burton said there was a high proportion of elderly residents and university students in the area, and said she feared about the impact of a second wave on people’s mental health.
“I’m very worried about what might happen, but there’s an excellent community spirit here, and that has been a big help,” she said.
•How we worked it out
We used two sets of data in this article to find out if poorer areas had more coronavirus cases.
The first was the government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) which splits the country into areas called MSOAs of around 7,000 people.
It categorises each area into one of 10 groups based on levels of deprivation. The lower the group’s rank, the more deprived the area is.
We then used the government’s weekly update of total coronavirus cases recorded by each MSOA.
We looked at how many cases were in communities ranked in five most deprived and five least deprived IMD groups.
It showed 87pc of Great Yarmouth cases occurred in areas ranked in the poorest five IMD groups in the country.
In King’s Lynn, the percentage in poorer areas was 73pc, and in Norwich it was 64pc.
•Follow the latest from our investigations unit on Facebook
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Norwich Evening News. Click the link in the orange box above for details.