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Health

Poorest More Than Twice as Likely to Die From COVID-19 in Scotland: Data

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The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities in countries around the world, including within the UK. The UN's Global Goals call for countries to eliminate poverty, provide universal health care, and invest in pandemic response measures. You can join us in taking action to help ensure no one is left behind in the response to COVID-19 here.

People living in poverty in Scotland are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as people living in the most affluent areas, new statistical analysis shows.

Statistics on coronavirus-related deaths have been released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) office every week, but the gap between rich and poor was revealed for the first time on May 13. 

When they compared the most deprived areas with the least deprived, the NRS found a death toll that is 2.3 times higher among poorer communities. People in the poorest areas have died at a rate of 86.5 per 100,000 people compared with 38.2 per 100,000 people in the wealthiest areas.

Men from the poorest areas have been even worse affected, according to an analysis of the research in the ipaper — with a death rate of 109.2 per 100,000 compared with 43.2 in the richest areas. For women, the figures were 70.2 and 32.9 respectively.

The research follows data from the Office of National Statistics on the death toll in England and Wales — which similarly found that the poorest areas in those countries have been hit with double the number of deaths from COVID-19.  

Jim McCormick, associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an anti-poverty nonprofit, told local newspaper the Daily Record: “It can never be right that someone’s life chances are so profoundly affected by where they live or how much money their family has.”

McCormick said there should be a rethink on how we approach the pay of the key workers fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic while receiving low wages. Otherwise, he said, it would be impossible to "avoid the spiral of low income and poor health."

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This research has followed a period of increasing concern about the high death rate in Inverclyde, an area west of Glasgow that earlier data have shown contains some of the most deprived postcodes and highest COVID-19 death tolls in Scotland, the Daily Record reports.

Speaking to the Guardian, Stephen McCabe, Inverclyde’s council leader, said that the area had “high-density housing, high levels of people with co-morbidity, and a high proportion of older people.”

“We knew we were going to be hit but what surprised us is that we are in front,” he added.

McCabe has called on the Scottish government to address regional disparities and has demanded an urgent report from Public Health Scotland on the issue. 

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Volunteers at a local community centre food bank in Inverclyde told the Guardian they had been anticipating a difficult time with the virus. 

Laura Reilly, a volunteer coordinator said: “This wasn’t unexpected, we knew people were going to find it hard. It’s one thing being locked in a suburban house with a garden and deciding what to watch from Amazon, and another being stuck in a tenement flat with three children and no phone credit.”

The latest NRS data also shows that 91% of people who died of COVID-19 in April in Scotland had at least one pre-existing condition. The most common pre-existing condition was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, present in 31% of all deaths involving the virus, followed by ischaemic heart disease at 13%.