Heather Jameson 15 June 2020

IFS exposes impact of COVID-19 on different areas

The balance of protecting public health and returning to economic activity varies from one area to the next, research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.

In a report that could have wider implications for a localised response to the virus, the IFS found the cost of lockdown could even vary in neighbouring local authories.

Torbay and the Isle of Wight are the areas likely to be hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, the IFS said, but there is no north-south or urban-rural divide.

Instead there is a ‘patchwork’ of problems which all impact on how susceptible local authority will be to the virus. These include places with an elderly population, a heavy reliance on tourism and high levels of social deprivation.

One of the report authors, Imran Rasul, said: ‘There is no single measure that captures all the different types of vulnerability during this crisis. The risks to public health, local economies and vulnerable families are spread across England in a patchwork.

‘The crisis will require policymakers at different levels to coordinate their response, since the geography of vulnerabilities has shifted away from the traditional North–South or urban–rural divides.’
Mark Franks, director of Welfare at the Nuffield Foundation which supported the research, said: ‘This report illustrates how different areas of England will be affected by the virus in a unique way, which means the impact on health, jobs and families will evolve differently within each area as we progress through the stages of this crisis.

‘The government needs to understand these localised differences in timescales and impacts in order to work effectively with local authorities to target the right support in the right areas at the right time.’
The report found:

  • Neighbouring authorities have a different experience of the crisis
  • Coastal areas are vulnerable to both health and economic impacts of the crisis
  • The northern spine of England – including South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – are more vulnerable than average
  • More affluent areas will take a bigger hit on the economy
  • London has seen high rates of COVID-19, but its younger population is less exposed to serious risk from the virus
  • Designing policy to reflect local need will require a highly co-ordinated response
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