Bedford coronavirus death rate higher than regional average

Analysis also shows sharp division between most and least affluent areas

By Clare Turner
Thursday, 7th May 2020, 4:15 pm

Bedford has a higher coronavirus death rate than the regional average, new figures reveal.

The ONS data shows there were 51 deaths involving Covid-19 in Bedford between the beginning of March and April 17 – a rate of 31.8 per 100,000 of the local population.

This was above the average of 28.4 across the East of England.

A patient being treated

Across England and Wales, the average rate was 36.2 in 100,000 – but the analysis showed a sharp division between the most and least affluent areas.

According to the English Index of Multiple Deprivation – a measure of living conditions based on factors including health – the rate for deaths involving Covid-19 for the 10 per cent least deprived areas in the country was 25.3 per 100,000.

In the most deprived area, it was 55.1 – more than double.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the gap was "devastating confirmation that the virus thrives on inequality".

He added: “Labour has long warned of shameful health inequalities which mean the poorest contract illness earlier in life and die sooner.

“Covid-19 exacerbates existing inequalities in our country. Ministers must target health inequalities with an overarching strategy to tackle the wider social determinants of ill health.”

The local authority with the highest rate was Newham in London, where it stood at 144.3 in 100,000, while at the other end of the spectrum in nearby Norwich, 2.5 in 100,000 deaths involved the virus.

Sara Willcocks, head of communications at the anti-poverty charity Turn2us, said the differences across the country showed coronavirus "is not a great equaliser”.

She added: "People who are already the most deprived are now facing the worst health and economic consequences of this pandemic.

"We urge the Government to address these inequalities now, by reversing years of austerity, properly funding councils and fixing our welfare safety net.”

Asked to respond to the ONS figures, the Department of Health and Social Care pointed to comments by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, who said: "It's critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so we can help to protect them.”