Impact of covid-19 in Bedford borough ‘may last a generation’ – report

A hard-hitting report says the knock-on effect of covid-19 on Bedford’s population is “profound” and may last for a generation.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Monday, 8th June 2020, 5:00 pm

Public health chiefs in the borough are preparing to review all their strategies to cope with the impact on job losses, mental health, and the closure of schools.

“The impact of covid-19 on local health and well-being is profound,” says Ian Brown, the borough council’s chief officer for public health, in his report to a meeting on Wednesday.

“Alongside the direct impact of the virus itself, the measures that have been taken to control the spread of the virus – such as staying at home, shielding the most vulnerable, closing schools and business – will affect people’s income, job security, education, social contact and mental well-being.”

Artist's impression of a coronavirus

As fewer people have use of healthcare services for non-covid-19 problems, Mr Brown says “This could mean that potentially urgent health problems have gone undiagnosed or chronic problems have worsened.”

Heath screening and immunisation services for preventable diseases have also been disrupted.

Mr Brown says the impact is likely to be seen in waves, and he assumes that there will only be a single peak of covid-19 infections.

But he adds that this “may be an optimistic scenario.”

Mr Brown’s report, called Beyond lockdown – Anticipating the medium and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on population health and well-being, is set to be discussed by the borough’s health and well-being board on Wednesday afternoon.

The report highlights a wide range of impacts, including on new parents who are isolated and without the support from friends and family to deal with issues to do with feeding, and sleeping.

Mr Brown also says there could be a reduced rate of breastfeeding, and more risk of postnatal depression.

It could also hit early years’ development, obesity rates, child poverty, and missing normally routine childhood immunisations.

He warns that this could lead to “outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles.”

Among the older age groups, self-isolation may mean less physical activity, more mental health problems, and more risk of falling over.

Older people and those in at risk groups may also be more anxious about getting their seasonal flu jab before the winter season.

The report adds: “The long-term impact of bereavement and grief on individuals, families and communities may be exacerbated by restrictions on normal funeral rites, and physical separation from loved ones at the time of death and during the grieving process.”

The effects won’t be felt the same across the population, the report adds.

“These impacts are likely to disproportionately affect deprived, vulnerable and marginalised groups, and the effects may last a generation,” the report says.

The health and well-being board is being asked to support reviewing and updating its health strategies.