The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on people’s health and their livelihoods. What started as a health crisis rapidly turned into an economic emergency, with government taking unprecedented action to protect the nation. Despite these efforts, by mid-March 2021 the pandemic had led to 119,000 excess deaths in the UK and in 2020 caused a 9.9% drop in GDP.
Behind these overall figures lie the unequal burdens carried by different population groups and regions. The measures taken to suppress the virus have also affected people differently – with both immediate and longer term consequences for their health and wellbeing.
Although the pandemic is still ongoing, this report explores these impacts and the range of different, intersecting factors influencing them. It provides an initial assessment of the effects of the pandemic using evidence available up to May 2021.
Drawing on a broad range of sources, the inquiry report considers two main questions:
1. How were people’s experiences of the pandemic influenced by their pre-existing health and health inequalities?
2. What is the likely impact of actions taken in response to the pandemic on the nation’s health and health inequalities – now and in the future?
The pandemic has shown that health and wealth are inextricably connected. A sustainable recovery therefore presents an opportunity to create a healthier and prosperous society, to reduce the stark inequalities exposed by the pandemic.
Although it is beyond the intended scope to propose specific recommendations, the findings of this inquiry can direct policymakers at national and local level to some core issues that need attention as they take the recovery forward.