BLOG: The impact of Covid-19 on the health of our city

Richard Jones, Head of Intelligence and Analytics at Liverpool City Council, writes about the Impact of COVID-19 on health in the city and debunks some conspiracy theories.

We are all fed up with COVID. It has dominated work, it’s all we talk about (let’s be honest, it’s the only thing to talk about), it’s disrupted all of our lives and changed the way we can live our lives.

We want it to go away as soon as possible, or at least be contained, so that we can start to return to a pre-COVID normal. Surely anything that can speed this return to normality up is worth trying, and we should welcome the city-wide mass testing and join in. It’s definitely worth a go – unless you really like staying in every night, enjoy the atmosphere of empty sports stadiums, and don’t want the new James Bond film to ever be released.

However, there have been, from the beginning, many conspiracy theories around COVID. It’s a hoax, deaths are wrongly being recorded as COVID, it only affects old, sick people, “they” want your DNA (what for is unclear, and it’d probably be stored in excel anyway and crash every time you try and open the file) are some of the common theories discussed online. These have recently been gaining traction in the comments sections on the more moderate mainstream internet news sites. I’ll be honest, my brain when thinking about a pandemic conjures up images of sirens blaring 24/7, people falling over in the street, and general mass hysteria so it does raise the questions “Is COVID really that bad?” and “Do we need mass testing if it isn’t that bad?”.

We can answer these here and now with hard facts:

Between January 1st and July 31st there were 623 more deaths in the city than in the same period last year.

In the first 7 months of this year life expectancy fell by 2.4 years. This is likely to be the largest annual reduction since the Second World War.

28 of our 30 electoral wards have seen a reduction in life expectancy, with eight seeing a decrease of over 4 years.

Health inequalities are widening with the gap between the ward with the highest and lowest life expectancy now standing at 13 years.

There has been a 28% increase in the city’s mortality rate, and 23% increase in the premature mortality rate compared with 2019. It’s not just our older residents at serious risk.

This mortality rise has been caused almost entirely by COVID-19 with 536 recorded deaths up to the end of July

The age range of COVID deaths across the city is from mid-20’s to those aged 99 years.

Almost 6 out of 10 COVID deaths were men.

We have seen a reduction in cancer deaths, and maybe deaths that would normally be recorded as a cancer death have been recorded as a COVID death, or maybe a weakened immune system leaves an individual particularly susceptible to COVID.

All deaths are tragic, but for me suicide deaths are always particularly upsetting to report on. In 2019 there were 28 suspected suicides in the city, up to the end of September this year there had been 42.

The above facts show that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the city. I also think that there will be a long term impact on health if we don’t try and contain the virus as quickly as possible. We will see delays to diagnosis and treatment for serious diseases such as cancer, there will be a deterioration in our physical health caused by deteriorating mental wellbeing, there is likely to be a rise in alcohol dependency and substance misuse, and we don’t know what the impact of “long COVID” will be. This is before contemplating the economic impact of COVID on health, and the impact on children and young people.

It is in everyone’s best interest to participate in the mass testing programme. We need to do and try everything that could help to contain the virus, and to get to a position where outbreaks can be managed and controlled. Even if you still believe in debunked conspiracy theories, but you really want to see Daniel Craig save the world again on the big screen then #LetsGetTested