Disadvantaged communities in South Tyneside 'hardest hit' by Covid-19 with impacts still felt by many, say experts

Health chiefs have warned the most disadvantaged communities in South Tyneside suffered the hardest due to Covid-19, with impacts still being felt by many.
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South Tyneside Council director of public health Tom Hall has produced his annual report looking back on 2021/22, titled “A Time Like No Other” and focusing on experiences and learnings from the pandemic.

As well as reflecting on the past year, it also looks at recommendations for the future, such as monitoring long-term impacts, developing a “stand up plan” for Covid, and improving pathways to different service areas.

The report went before the people select committee on Tuesday, June 8, who acknowledged the difficulties of the pandemic, as well as praising the response from many in the community.

Covid-19 warning signage in South Shields town centre during coronavirus measures in 2021.Covid-19 warning signage in South Shields town centre during coronavirus measures in 2021.
Covid-19 warning signage in South Shields town centre during coronavirus measures in 2021.

The public health chief warned despite authorities doing their all to protect residents, the most disadvantaged communities felt the impact hardest in numerous ways.

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Mr Hall said: “Communities with the greatest level of social disadvantage have felt the impact of the pandemic the most, both directly in terms of the rates of cases, the illness caused by the virus and obviously higher rates of death.

“The indirect impact as well, such as lost education, issues such as childhood obesity that were starting to filter through, and wider issues such as domestic abuse.

“It’s a real challenge and with the cost of living crisis on us it’s one that we really need to think differently about and think about what our collective solutions are.”

Another recommendation moving forward involves supporting the development of a lobbying plan to influence national and regional decision-makers on the need for fair funding to tackle entrenched inequalities.

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Cllr John McCabe, people select committee chair, welcomed the recommendations and praised the work of voluntary groups for their support.

He said: “At the end of the day it was a pandemic that anyone living round here in their lifetime, something like that has never, ever been heard of before.

“It was more or less like the World War Two situation where from day to day things changed so quickly and the variables were unknown.

“From our perspective and the council’s perspective, hopefully we’ve risen to the task as well.”

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Officers added they tried to work with residents in the community to help spread messaging around the virus and vaccines, although councillors noted they faced resistance from some who “didn’t believe Covid exists”.

However Mr Hall added there were “real positives” resulting from the pandemic in terms of working relationships, particularly with the care home sector.

He added: “They absolutely rose to the challenge throughout the pandemic and we’re creating much stronger bonds.”

The annual public health report will now go to a future meeting of full council.