There is so much covid-related news at the moment, that we have chosen to collect several relevant stories here, rather than make individual features of them. Find out more about covid-testing, the impact on children and young people, people with disabilities, health, and the economy.

(With thanks for the articles taken from the Council’s Policy newsletter)

COVID-testing

A new regional Covid-19 testing site capable of carrying out up to 2,000 tests a day was due to open in Truro before Christmas. It is situated on the Tregurra Park and Ride site, on Newquay Road, and will also allow two of Cornwall’s Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) to be stored there overnight, which will mean they can reach their destinations more quickly the following day. For more about this development, see the Council’s press release.

To book a slot for testing, visit the Gov.uk website, and to find out more about the testing sites in operation, see the Council’s testing page.

Children & schools

Ofsted’s third report into the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on children shows continuing harm, particularly for the most vulnerable. Multiple rounds of isolation have reversed progress students had made since September, while remote learning’s effectiveness varies and is hard to establish. Many children with special educational needs or disabilities are not attending school, are struggling with remote learning, and may be more susceptible to neglect or abuse. There has been an increase in homeschooling, with many parents stating that their children will not return to mainstream education until the pandemic has finished.

There has been a sharp rise in reported eating disorders, with a 3- or 4-fold increase on last year, with the blame being placed on the pandemic. It is likely that many factors are involved – including isolation from friends during school closures, exam cancellations, loss of extra-curricular activities like sport, and an increased use of social media. For more information, see the BBC’s report and the report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

England is facing a wholesale closure of youth organisations, according to a report by the UK Youth charity. 58% of respondents tot their survey are operating at a reduced level, and 20% are either temporarily or permanently closing. See the Guardian article for details.

A subcommittee of SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which provides advice to Government), the Children’s Task and Finish Group, has published an update to its 4 November paper on Children, Schools and Transmission. The paper finds that “increased transmission [is] occurring amongst school children when schools are open, particularly in children of secondary school age” although “it is not possible to quantify the extent of transmission taking place specifically within schools”.

Disability

A nationwide poll conducted by the National Deaf Children’s Society has found that only one in two children with hearing impairments are currently receiving necessary specialist support during the second wave of the pandemic, predominantly due to social distancing requirements and the self-isolation of some teachers of the Deaf.

People with sight loss are facing discrimination, as they are unable to see queues, social distancing markings, and directions, and messages on businesses’ windows indicating how many clients can be inside at a time. In addition, guide dogs are trained to go to doors in order to enter places, and perceive queues as obstacles to be steered around. The BBC has an insightful article about it, including a plea for more understanding amongst the public and business owners.

The Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on disabled people. Titled “Unequal Impact? Coronavirus, Disability and Access to Services”, the report finds that people with disabilities have “suffered…profoundly adverse effects” from the pandemic. These include a disproportionate number of deaths; unequal access to food; potentially discriminatory treatment in health and care settings; and worsening problems in education.

Health impacts

ONS analysis suggests one in five people who contract Covid-19 will have “long Covid” symptoms which persist for five weeks, with one in 10 having symptoms for 10 weeks. Symptoms can include fatigue, pain, breathlessness and brain fog.

The Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report highlights that Covid-19 is likely to have an impact on health in the UK for many years to come, due to the direct effects of the virus and the indirect effects of postponing the diagnosis and treatment of other conditions. The report also finds that people in deprived areas have higher levels of ill health and disease, and that more people are suffering from chronic health conditions – particularly in rural areas, due to higher elderly populations and less accessible health facilities.

CQC has published a report which highlights the coronavirus-related pressures faced by the care services they regulate. This month’s report shares regional data on the designated settings that allow people with a COVID-positive test result to be discharged safely from hospital, and also the latest data on registered care home provision. It also look at how providers have collaborated to provide urgent and emergency care during the pandemic. See the report, and press release from CQC.

Economic impact of the pandemic

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, has announced investments from the Future High Streets Fund totaling £830 million for 72 areas. The money will help towns and cities recover from the economic effects of the pandemic, while also promoting long-term growth. In Cornwall, Penzance has received a provisional funding offer of more than £10 million.

The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of April, and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be able to claim another grant of up to £9,000 per property, to support them through lockdown. Details of how to claim are not clear yet.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said he would consider whether or how to extend support packages in its Budget on 3 March.

New economic analysis from EY (formerly Ernst Young) has found that since the start of the pandemic, the South West has had the largest regional contraction in employment (4%) and the largest regional increase in unemployment (2.6 to 4.1%). The South West is likely to lag behind the UK average for economic productivity and employment for the next four years.

Cornwall Council’s Economic Growth Service have produced an updated report on the ‘Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Cornwall’. The report is available to download via Let’s Talk Cornwall and highlights the known economic impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on Cornwall, including that it has been more severe (than for other parts of the UK) due to the importance of the visitor economy to the county, and the high levels of self-employment and small proportion of employment within large businesses.