New analysis by northern universities – including The University of Manchester – shows a larger increase in COVID-19 deaths, and deaths from all causes, in the north of England compared to the south and indicates the efficacy of lockdown has differed across the UK.

The analysis released today by the northern Health Science Alliance, in collaboration with the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) in the North East & North Cumbria and Greater Manchester, indicates that the lockdown decreased mortality rates much faster in London and South East than in the North East in particular.

That data maps ONS figures on COVID-19 deaths, and deaths from all causes, across the main train lines in England to see how different urban and rural centres performed compared to the national average in the months of March, April and May. Mortality rates in London and the south decreased much faster between April and May than they did in the north. The three regions with the highest COVID-19 mortality in May are all in the north: the North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Although mortality rates peaked in all areas in April the month by month analysis suggest that the lock down decreased mortality much more effectively in London and the South East than in other parts of the UK which could have implications when looking at local lockdowns to manage further waves of the virus.

Dr Luke Munford from The University of Manchester said: “These data show that the trends in the north are decreasing much slower than the rest of the country. In May, the three worst hit regions were all Northern, whereas the three regions with the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates were all southern. All-cause mortality is also much higher in the North. We need to understand why this is; what is different in the North compared to the South?”

Professor Clare Bambra of Newcastle University said: “The pandemic is evolving differently across the north and the South of England. This needs to be taken into account when developing the next stages of our response. We cannot have centralised, one size fits all policies when different regions are at different stages of the pandemic.”

Health Inequalities lead for the Northern Health Science Alliance Hannah Davies said: “These figures add more weight to the negative relationship between health inequalities and COVID-9 they also provide an argument to take a place-based approach to managing outbreaks in different areas.

“Closer investigation into the impact of lockdown measures in different areas of the country could potentially add intelligence to public health management of further waves of the virus.”


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