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The North of England has been ‘worst hit’ by the coronavirus pandemic

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A study has revealed that the north has been hit harder than the rest of England in the coronavirus pandemic.

The Northern Health Science Alliance, who completed the study, found that 12.4 more people per 100,000 population died with Covid-19 in the area of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ between March and July than anywhere else in the country.

The study factored in deprivation, ethnicity and the age structure of the population and the findings showed mortality rate in the Northern Powerhouse region was worse than elsewhere in the country. 

The Northern Powerhouse dates back to the 2010-15 coalition government’s plan to boost the economic growth of the North of England, in particular the ‘core’ cities: Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.

The Northern Powerhouse area had an extra 57.7 people per 100,000 of the population dying between March and July.

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The study was led by scientists from the Universities of Newcastle, Manchester, York and Liverpool who estimated that the increased mortality in Northern England would cost the economy £6.86bn. The mental health impact on the region would cost about £5bn a year.

The report explained that since the start of the pandemic, adverse trends in poverty education, employment and mental health for children and young people had worsened. It also pointed out that pre-pandemic child health – which is a key predictor in life-long health and economic productivity – was poor and deteriorating in the Northern Powerhouse. 

Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, Clare Bambra said the report ‘highlights that we are not all in the pandemic together with the northern regions being hardest hit’

She added: “Health and wealth in the Northern Powerhouse lagged behind the rest of the country even before the [Covid-19] pandemic, and over the last year our significant regional inequalities have been exacerbated.”

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Hannah Davies from the Northern Health Science Alliance said: “Health inequalities between the North and the rest of England have been growing for over a decade.

“This report demonstrates the impact that has had on the productivity of the region and how it has led Covid-19 to take a devastating grip on the North.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it remained ‘determined to level up on health outcomes as well as opportunity’, with its £30bn plan for jobs scheme for the UK as well as its £170m funding ‘to help families stay warm and well fed this winter’, and increases in Universal Credit.

They added: “Throughout the pandemic we have worked hand-in-hand with local authorities and over £300m has already been allocated to local authorities in England to help them stop the spread of the virus in their communities.” 

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The report provided 12 recommendations to the government to ‘level-up’ the country, including: 

  • More regional resources in the Northern Powerhouse region to boost the NHS Test and Trace system
  • Targeting vulnerable and deprived communities in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout
  • Reducing child poverty by increasing child benefit, extending free childcare and free school meals and more investment in children’s services

Dr Luke Munford, Lecturer in Health Economics at University of Manchester, said: “The findings in this report reaffirm the results of our earlier analyses that showed the inextricable link between health and wealth.

“The Northern Powerhouse, on average, has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the rest of England in terms of both health and wealth outcomes.

“We cannot get away from their interconnectedness. The fact that these regional inequalities persist even after we account for deprivation and other known determinants means that there are other factors at play.

“These regional inequalities need to be addressed fast, or we risk letting the Northern Powerhouse fall further behind. A sensible place to start would be improving the health of people living in the Northern Powerhouse.”

See the full report here

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Schools will not reopen after February half-term, Boris Johnson confirms

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Schools will not open after February half-term, the prime minister has confirmed.

Boris Johnson has announced that schools will not reopen after February half-term, but has promised a route out of lockdown.

The prime minister says ‘we don’t have enough data to judge the full effect of vaccines in blocking transmission’.

Adding: “What we do know is that we remain in a perilous situation.”

He goes onto explain that the government will be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown by mid-February. 

A review and plan for taking the country out of lockdown can be expected when parliament is back from recess in the week commencing February 22nd. 

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Boris explains that the ‘first sign of normality’ will be schools returning, however, it will not be possible for this to happen immediately after the February half term. 

He explains that if the vaccine target is hit by mid-February, and those groups developed immunity from the virus around March 8th, schools could reopen.

The prime minister acknowledged the ‘huge impact’ of school closures and pledged £300m of new money for tutoring and extra intiatives for summer schools.

Finishing his speech, the PM says: “As we inoculate more people hour by hour, this is the time to hold our nerve in the endgame in the battle against the virus.

“Our goal now must be to bide the extra weeks we need to immunise the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease.”

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Teacher dies on her 25th birthday after contracting coronavirus

‘Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher’

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Recently-qualified teacher Claudia Marsh died with coronavirus on her 25th birthday.

Claudia’s death has been described as ‘sudden and unexpected’ by the charity that helped her recover from an eating disorder a few years ago.

She had gone on to volunteer at the organisation, becoming a ‘beacon of hope’ for others. 

Her mother, Tina Marsh, said she was ‘very proud’ and ‘blown away’ by the number of tributes after Claudia died at Liverpool’s Royal University Hospital on Wednesday.

Posting on Facebook, Ms Marsh said Claudia was a ‘beautiful daughter and incredible sister’ who was selfless with her work at the Merseyside-based charities, Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) and The Whitechapel Centre.

Her mother said: “She loved giving back to people less fortunate than herself.”

Founder of TEDS and family friend Leigh Best described the death as ‘heartbreaking’, adding: “Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher.

“She supported countless families across the UK. Claudia made her own little packs to give out to others with eating disorders with positive affirmations.

“She was full of positivity, kindness and hope, and had a smile that would brighten up the whole room.”

The Whitechapel Centre also released a statement where they said staff were ‘devastated’, adding she would leave behind a ‘legacy of care, dedication and enthusiasm’.

Throughout the pandemic Claudia spent her time providing food and clothing to those who need it, the centre said, adding: “Claudia always put others before herself and her memory will live on through the impact and contribution she made to our organisation.

“She was instrumental in bringing together our volunteer community.”

Her mother has set up an online fundraising page for the two charities which has already raised £16,495.

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Opening schools is a national priority, government says

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Schools Minister, Nick Gibb told the commons that schools in England will be reopen ‘as soon as possible’. 

Responding to an urgent question brought by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, Mr Gibb said the government would ‘prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions’.

Ms Green went onto say that the government had ‘failed  to give parents, children and staff the credible plan they deserve’.

Adding: “We simply don’t know what the government’s plan is for school reopening – other than what we read in the newspapers,”

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“In recent days, we’ve had reports that the prime minister wants pupils back before Easter, the health secretary saying he wants pupils back after Easter, Public Health England saying overnight the primary schools are already safe to reopen – so which is it?

“What is the plan for full reopening? The schools minister mentioned some metrics but was vague about the required performance against them – can he give us some more clarity?”

Mr Gibb said it was the government’s ‘strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible’.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development – particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens placed on parents.

He added that the ‘government has been clear that education is a national priority’ throughout the pandemic.

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“We had worked hard to keep all schools, colleges and universities fully open but scientific advice we received in January meant we had no choice but to close schools and colleges to all but vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“And to restrict in-person teaching in university to those studying to be future critical workers.” He said. 

He added that there will be an announcement in the next few days as remote learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning. 

“We want to give two weeks’ notice so parents can make arrangement for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.” He said.

Chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, told Mr Gibb that parents and children were suffering.

“We need to get our schools open again sooner rather than later,” he said.

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