UK Update: Life and Death in COVID-19 Pandemic

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The FINANCIAL — The number of people in England who have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to increase in recent weeks. An estimated 103,600 people within the community population in England had COVID-19 during the latest week, from 13 to 19 September 2020, equating to around 1 in 500 people.

The current infection rates have increased in all ages groups, with the highest rates found in the 17 to 24 years age group.

By region, there is evidence of higher infection rates in the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, London and North East.

Between 13 and 19 September 2020, there were around 1.75 new COVID-19 infections for every 10,000 people per day in the community population in England, equating to around 9,600 new cases per day.

The most recent modelled estimate shows the number of infections in England has increased in recent weeks

These figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

UK authorities estimate that 10,800 people in Wales had COVID-19 during the same period, which is around 1 in 300 people.

In Northern Ireland, during the weeks 6 to 19 September, we estimate that 0.35% had COVID-19, which is around 1 in 300 people.

Future plans for work

With many places of work now offering remote working options for their employees as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some workers are now considering moving house, most commonly to rural or coastal areas.

The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) this week looks at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on British society between 16 and 20 September.

During the last week, 29% of adults said that they will continue to work from home all or some of the time. Of the adults who would continue working from home, 12% said that they have considered moving location (60% who were thinking of moving said they would like to move to a rural area and 40% a coastal area).

Meanwhile, 63% of adults said they had socialised with between one and five people at once, while a further 11% said they had socialised with six or more. There were similar figures for those living in local lockdown areas (54% and 8% respectively).

Around one-quarter (26%) of adults said they had not socialised with others who were not in their household or support bubble in the past seven days, which is lower than last week at 29%.

Public sector borrowing

Today’s public sector finance figures reflect the ongoing unprecedented impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and the government’s support for individuals and businesses.

UK borrowing was £35.9 billion in August 2020, around seven times the £5.4 billion borrowed in August 2019 but around £2 billion lower than expectations.

Central government tax receipts were £37.3 billion in August 2020 (on a national accounts basis), £7.5 billion less than in August 2019; with Value Added Tax, Corporation Tax and Income Tax receipts falling considerably.

Central government bodies spent £78.5 billion on their day-to-day activities (current expenditure) in August 2020, £19.5 billion more than in August 2019, including nearly £11.0 billion on job furlough schemes.

Provisional estimates indicate borrowing in the first five months of the financial year to August 2020 have reached £173.7 billion, more than three times the £56.6 billion borrowed in the whole of financial year 2019 to 2020.

Borrowing estimates are subject to greater than usual uncertainty due to their partial reliance on forecast data. Borrowing in the financial year to July 2020 was revised down by £12.7 billion to £137.7 billion compared with the previous estimate. This reduction was largely due to lower than previously recorded spending on goods and services by central government and stronger than previously estimated tax receipts.

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The need for the extra funding required to support the government’s COVID relief schemes, combined with a fall in gross domestic product (GDP), has helped push debt at the end of July 2020 to 101.9 % of GDP, the highest debt ratio since the financial year ending March 1961.

Today’s data highlight the emerging fiscal impact of the coronavirus crisis but will be prone to material future revisions and it will take many months before the true scale of the impact becomes clear.

Trading status results have now been weighted by count of UK businesses and provide a representation of the business population. This differs to previous BICS publications where the estimates were unweighted. Across all industries, 84% of businesses were currently trading, compared with 66% of businesses in Wave 7 (1 June to 14 June 2020).

The information and communication industry, and the arts, entertainment and recreation industry had the highest percentages of businesses that were temporarily closed or paused trading, at 26% and 23% respectively.

Working arrangements presented in the chart have now been weighted by employment, where, in effect, businesses with larger employment sizes are given greater emphasis in results but all businesses in the population are accounted for.

Of businesses not permanently stopped trading, 12% of the workforce were on partial or full furlough leave

Travelling to work and online job adverts

Our latest indicators for the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK society and economy provide information on the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK, with information on travelling to work, road traffic estimates and footfall.

The proportion of working adults travelling to work at some point during the week increased to 64%, while the proportion exclusively working from home increased slightly to 21%, according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey collected between 16 and 20 September.

On Monday 21 September, heavy vehicle traffic was six percentage points higher than traffic seen on the equivalent Monday in the first week of February, according to estimates from the Department for Transport. Car traffic remained below the levels seen in the first week of February, but over the last few months it has increased from around 30 percentage points below February traffic levels to about eight percentage points below.

Estimates for overall volume of footfall are now available by UK country and English regions, comparing the same day the previous year, from 1 March to 20 September 2020. Different timings in trends for increasing footfall between the UK countries, from June 2020 onwards, are likely because of the different easing timelines, in particular on the reopening of non-essential shops and pubs.

Life in lockdown

Six months ago, lockdown measures were introduced in Great Britain to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and throughout this time, we have been asking people about their opinions and behaviours.

We have now presented people’s experiences in their own words, capturing how people across the country have been coping with the many changes brought about by the pandemic.

In March, more than half of adults said they thought life would be back to normal within six months. However, when the same question was posed to people in August, “more than a year” was the most popular response, with over a third (37%) of adults saying they thought this is how long the pandemic would last.

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The uncertainty people faced was clear to see in the survey’s free text responses, which we now present for the first time. One person said their life was “on hold” during self-isolation, while another said they lacked “any idea about when and how things might ‘return to normal’”.

Following five months of restrictions, and the end of the pandemic still not in sight, a third of adults said they felt COVID-19 was the most important issue facing Britain. However, others have expressed positive outcomes from the last six months, such as one respondent who said they “appreciate the little things that matter more” and another who said they were enjoying a “more thoughtful and engaging lifestyle”.

Up to 11 September 2020, there were 52,482 deaths registered in England and Wales involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) (28,883 men and 23,599 women).

The majority of deaths involving COVID-19 have been among people aged 65 years and over (46,874 out of 52,482).
The total number of deaths in the week ending 11 September 2020 (Week 37) was 9,811, above the five-year average and the highest weekly total since the week ending 12 June (Week 24).

The number of deaths involving COVID-19 increased compared with the previous week, the first week-on-week rise since the peak of the pandemic (week ending 17 April). However, registrations were lower than usual in the previous week because of the August Bank Holiday.

Deaths involving COVID-19 by occupation

Among men working in health care and social care, the rate of death involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) was around 3.2 times higher in those who likely acquired the virus before lockdown than those who likely acquired the virus during lockdown.

Between 9 March and 30 June 2020, prior to the widespread easing of lockdown restrictions, 5,330 deaths involving COVID-19 in the working age population (those aged 20 to 64 years) of England and Wales were registered. 72.0% of the total number (3,839 deaths) were likely to be a result of an infection acquired before lockdown on 23 March. Occupation information is available on the death certificate.

Analysis shows that mortality rates for both sexes during lockdown were generally half those seen before lockdown for all major occupation groups. Despite this, some groups of occupations continued to have high rates of death involving COVID-19 across the entire period, when compared to rates in the population.

Men working in elementary occupations had highest rates of death involving COVID-19, before the period of lockdown

Among men, four out of the nine major occupation groups had higher rates of death involving COVID-19 in the before and during lockdown groups, compared with rates among those of the same age and sex in the population (elementary occupations; caring, leisure and other service occupations; process, plant and machine operatives; and skilled trades occupations).

Among women, only those working in the caring, leisure and other service occupations had higher rates of death involving COVID-19 in the before and during lockdown groups. People working in the health and social care sector are recorded in a wide range of occupational groups. Men working in health and social care experienced rates of death involving COVID-19 that were three times higher in the before lockdown group than the during lockdown group. For women, only social care workers had elevated rates in the before lockdown group.

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