Nowhere is feeling the economic and social impact of Covid-19 more than UK’s cities and largest towns. They account for around 60% of the country’s economic output and more than half of the population.
Once the immediate crisis is over, the Government will need to consider how it can help the towns and cities most economically affected by Coronavirus rebuild their economies.
This week’s data shows that Chatham is now the city or large town with the highest number of cases per population, with 516 cases per 100,000 people.
It is followed by Stoke (328) and Slough (305). At the other end of the spectrum, Worthing still shows the smallest number of cases per population, with 30 cases per 100,000 people.
This week’s update shows that there is no particular geography to the current infection rates, as the top 10 places with the highest number of cases include northern cities like Blackburn, Burnley, Hull and Huddersfield, but also Slough and Basildon.
Looking at the changes compared to last week, data shows that cases are decreasing in a great majority of cities: in 49 cities the infection rate is decreasing, with a smaller number of cases per population now compared to last week. Birkenhead, Middlesbrough and Hull saw the largest falls, as numbers are around 50 per cent lower than they were last week.
However, they have increased in Chatham (+24 per cent), Norwich (+10 per cent) and Oxford (+9 per cent).
The lockdown policies that the Government have introduced to slow the spread of Coronavirus have had a huge economic impact. Some parts of the country will feel the negative effects more acutely than others.
Places with stronger highly-skilled information-based economies – mostly in the Greater South East – have been able to more easily adapt to working from home, ensuring that some parts the economy continues to function. However, other areas – mostly in the North and Midlands – with weaker low-skill service-based economies have been less able to do this.
They also have larger proportions of low-skilled self-employed people and the market for their services has shrunk significantly during this pandemic. They may receive less Government support once this crisis is over.
These outside the Greater South East will require more direct Government interventions to support their economies once the immediate public-health crisis is over.
In total, 2.7 million people are now claiming unemployment benefits, an increase of 1.4 million from March. Every city and large town as seen an increase in unemployment since the beginning of lockdown. While it first hit towns and cities in northern England, places in the south are now catching up.
Luton, Slough and Blackpool have seen the largest increases in unemployment since lockdown began. Meanwhile, cities and towns in predominantly in southern England and The Midlands have seen smaller increases in unemployment. Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Aberdeen and York have seen some of the smallest increases in unemployment since March.
As of mid-June Crawley, Burnley, Sunderland and Slough have the largest shares of people being paid by the Government’s furlough scheme.
In the medium term, as many as one in five jobs in cities and large towns could be at risk of redundancy or furloughing, and those reliant on the aviation industry, such as Crawley and Derby, are likely to be hardest hit. These areas are also the places most likely to be worst affected if the Job Retention Scheme is withdrawn too soon.
Once the public health crisis has ended, policymakers must develop a long-term response which recognises that the economic damage done by Coronavirus will be felt differently across the country.
Without a place-focussed economic response, the geographic inequalities that we saw before the Coronavirus will become even more entrenched, and the Prime Minister’s mission to level up the country will even harder to achieve.
While many people in the Greater South East have now shifted to working from home. Our research suggests that they have less living space per person to do this. People in cities have around 35.3 square metres per person on average – less than people living in non-urban areas. These differences across the country are widened by the shortage of housing in expensive cities, resulting in falling amounts of floorspace for people in certain places. Ordinarily, the amenities and work opportunities created by stronger cities’ economies would mean that a lack of space matters less. But this becomes a bigger problem when people cannot leave their home.
On the whole, we see that the city centre workers had responded before the Prime Minister announced what has become known as the lockdown, on Tuesday 24 March, especially in London. The scale and the pace of this response was biggest in the largest cities and in particular those with the strongest city centre economies.
For now, the pandemic seems to be concentrated mainly in cities. Because the population in urban areas lives more densely, cities have a greater potential to turn into hotspots for the contagion and diffusion of disease. But looking at age and health characteristics shows significant differences in the size of “at risk” populations (those who are older or with health conditions) between the country’s largest cities and towns. This suggests that some places are more vulnerable than others.
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Some cities will have more people working at home – but have less space while doing so.
Uncertainty for self-employed people, home-working and the importance of agglomeration – the impact of Coronavirus on employment will be felt differently across the UK
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