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.

Where in England and Wales has the most Coronavirus cases?

See the COVID-19 cases tracker

  •  Cardiff is the city with the largest number of confirmed cases, with 557 cases per 100,000 population. The number of cases has increased relatively quickly in the past week.
  •  Sunderland  still records the highest number of cases per population in England, and approaches 500 cases per 100,000 population (496 per 100,000 population). The growth in the number of cases has become more stable in the past week.
  • Sheffield is the city with the second biggest number of cases per population in England, with 411 cases per 100,000 population. Oxford comes shortly after, with 409 cases per 100,000 population.
  • During the last week, the increase in the number of cases per 100,000 population has stabilised in many cities, with a few exceptions like Blackpool.
  • Bournemouth has the lowest number of cases per population, with around 121 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The number of cases has remained stable over the last week.

Methodology and notes

How is Coronavirus affecting the economy?

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.

How is Coronavirus affecting unemployment?

Since lockdown began in March, an extra 850,000 people have registered for unemployment benefits. Every city and large town as seen an increase in unemployment since the beginning of lockdown, but it has risen the most in places in northern England.

Blackpool, Liverpool, Hull, Belfast and Manchester have seen the largest increases in unemployment since lockdown began. Meanwhile, cities and towns in southern England and The Midlands have seen smaller increases in unemployment. Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Aberdeen have seen the smallest increases in unemployment since March.

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.

How can the economy recover from Coronavirus?

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.

Centre for Cities will be working on this in the future.

How is Coronavirus affecting people’s living situations?

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.

How quickly did workers in city centres respond to the coronavirus?

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.

Where are the most vulnerable cities in the UK?

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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How is Coronavirus affecting the economy?

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