A new report has shown how much harder the poorest in Wales have been hit by coronavirus.
Proportionately, the most deprived people in Wales were twice as likely to end up in hospital with Covid-19 than the least deprived. On top of this they were also far more likely to die from the virus.
The findings show, that despite the pandemic affecting all areas of Welsh society, those who had the least have been affected the most.
You can read a special report on how the pandemic affected people living in the Butetown are of Cardiff here.
This latest report comes from Wales’ chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Frank Atherton who has been the main advisor to the Welsh Government throughout the pandemic.
He wrote: “During the first phase of the pandemic, it also became increasingly evident that Covid-19 was disproportionately affecting the health of people from more deprived backgrounds.”
He added that people from the most deprived parts of Wales were overrepresented in hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and deaths due to Covid.
Why is this happening?
Dr Atherton pointed to a range of reasons for the the poorest in Wales being hit hardest.
He said: “Although not yet fully understood, possible factors underlying this difference may have included underlying health conditions such as obesity and heart disease, disabilities and specific risk factors or syndromes, being closer to centres where there were high transmission rates, public facing occupations and crowded living environments.
“For example, analysis has shown that, of the deaths involving Covid-19 that occurred in England and Wales in March to June 2020, there was at least one pre-existing condition in 91.1% of cases.
“We also know that many of the pre-existing health conditions that evidence suggests increase the risk of having severe infection (such as having conditions like diabetes and obesity) are also affected by socio-economic inequalities.”
But it is not just underlying health conditions, it is also the types of jobs people are doing. There are suggestions that the key workers who were vital in keeping the country going have put themselves more at risk by the very nature of their occupations.
“Similarly, occupational analysis of data from England and Wales has shown that jobs involving close proximity with others and those where there is regular potential exposure to disease have had some of the highest rates of death from Covid-19,” wrote Dr Atherton.
“Increased death rates from Covid-19 were seen for men and women in caring, leisure and other service occupations, which includes nursing assistants, care workers and ambulance drivers, and for men who were elementary workers, which includes occupations such as factory workers, construction workers and security guards.
“An example of the likely importance of many of these factors has been seen in the outbreaks of Covid-19 that have been identified in food processing plants here in Wales and across the world in the first phase of the pandemic.
This is not only a Welsh phenomena , with studies finding similar results in England also.
Commenting on the study, Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru’s equalities spokeswoman, said: “This is a snapshot of the first six months of the pandemic up to September 2020 and of course a lot has happened since as this is a fast-moving situation. However, this is a comprehensive report that lays bare the reality that Covid-19 has had a greater impact on the most deprived in our society.
“This is a terrible pandemic and we often say that it doesn’t discriminate, but it does – this report confirms that it hits the most vulnerable the hardest.
“There are two statistics that stand out for me in this report. One is that life expectancy is nine years shorter for the most deprived group of men compared to the least deprived in Wales. But an equally damning statistic is that the gap in health life expectancy between the most and least deprived was even greater at 18.2 years for men and 19.1 years for women.
“Dr Atherton makes a valid point that these health inequalities between social groups – especially for people with disabilities – are often avoidable and unfair. The challenge, as ever, is not just to identify the problems we face in our society but to change it.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk