The council with the highest COVID-19 death rate in the country has branded the virus a “housing disease” and is now drawing up plans looking at how to tackle its severe impact in the area.
Newham Council’s action comes as exclusive Inside Housing analysis points to a clear pattern between hotspots of coronavirus deaths and housing factors such as overcrowding, homelessness and a lack of social housing.
A comparison of official data on COVID-19 age-related mortality rates and housing overcrowding shows that of the 20 local authority areas where COVID-19 has claimed most lives per 100,000 people, 14 also have the highest percentage of households in homes with fewer bedrooms than they need.
Newham was revealed at the beginning of May to have the UK’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate as 144.3 people have died from the disease per 100,000 population.
The east London borough also has the worst housing overcrowding problem, with 25.2% of households affected, and the highest proportion of households in temporary accommodation at 46.1 per 100,000.
John Gray, lead member for housing services at Newham Council, told Inside Housing: “We’ve got to get our act together, especially in Newham in the context of the worst age-related mortality rates in the country. Housing is definitely linked to that fact.”
He added: “This is a housing disease. We’re trying to put together some thoughts and some plans on how we can address this.”
Adam Tinson, a senior analyst at The Health Foundation, said overcrowded living conditions could help coronavirus spread as “it makes it quite hard” for people with symptoms to self-isolate and that low-income households are more likely to be in an overcrowded home with someone in a vulnerable group.
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