Hinterland - 27 April 2020

In Hinterland this week - strong views that rural places are more fragile when it comes to the virus and have very vulnerable economies. A parallel theme looks at people on the move, unwelcome tourists and mobile testing facilities. And finally points to the contemplative hidden depths of zoom!!! Read on…

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Coronavirus death rates 'could be 80% higher in rural communities'

Coronavirus death rates could be between 50 and 80 per cent higher in rural communities, according to scientists.

Worrying stuff for obvious reasons…..

A study from the University of St Andrews has predicted significantly higher levels of Covid-19 fatalities in rural locations due to larger ageing populations.

The analysis found that death rates could be up to 80 per cent higher if the outbreak reaches people in these more remote areas.

It is feared this could have long-term socio-cultural impacts on certain communities, particularly on areas which are strongholds for minority languages.

Professor Hill Kulu, who co-authored the study with his colleague Peter Dorey, said: "If the pandemic is to last long and the virus is to spread to all areas of the UK, remote small towns and rural communities are projected to have 50 per cent to 80 per cent higher death rates than the main cities because of their old population composition.

"Remote location may offer a protection from Covid-19 to some areas but if the virus is to spread to these communities the effects will be devastating."


UK lockdown: 'Untold anxiety' over police rural exercise advice

Rural groups say police guidance that people can drive to the countryside to exercise will cause "untold anxieties".

Looks like rural communities are still not yearning for the return of the visitor. The swathe the virus is cutting through rural economies (see two of the stories below) suggests this might be a dangerous line to hold for too long.

The National Rural Crime Network and other groups said it risks spreading the virus through unnecessary journeys.

Driving to the countryside for a walk is "likely to be reasonable" if more time is spent walking than driving, the guidance says.

Police groups say the advice is not for the public - it is meant to help officers decide when to charge someone.

The letter challenging the guidance is signed by the National Rural Crime Network, the Countryside Alliance, the National Farmers' Union, and the Country Land and Business Association, who say they represent "many millions of residents and thousands of businesses" in England and Wales. 

They said they receive "hundreds of concerned messages a day" about people flouting the laws restricting movements, and say there are serious concerns this guidance will "encourage even more people to carry out unnecessarily long journeys".

They have written to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland demanding a change to the pandemic advice.

"The key message needs to remain: stay home, save lives. Anything which complicates that message is unhelpful," the letter says.


Coronavirus: Military tests key workers in mobile units

Good to see that testing may be coming to a place near you rather than everything being concentrated in urban centres.

The military has started testing essential workers in the UK for coronavirus in mobile units operating in "hard to reach" areas.

At least 96 new pop-up facilities, which will travel to care homes, police and fire stations, prisons and benefits centres, are planned in total.

Eleven of those mobile sites are up-and-running in areas including Salisbury, Carlisle and Watford.

It comes as the government aims to reach 100,000 tests a day by Thursday. 

The latest figures released by the government reveal a running total of 20,732 deaths of people with coronavirus, not including those in English care homes, which are collated separately.

There were 29,058 tests carried out on Saturday, an increase from the 28,760 tests carried out the day before, but still far short of the government's daily target of 100,000 - which it aims to achieve by the end of April.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show the government has to "ramp testing right up" but added it was "on track" to hit its target.

"We have certainly got to get the daily testing right up to hundreds of thousands which, along with the tracking and tracing, gives us… more flexibility because we can open up measures, open up access," Mr Raab said.

"That, along with the vaccine and therapeutics will be the medium to long-term way of dealing with coronavirus sustainably and responsibly for good."


The key areas to look at in easing the UK coronavirus lockdown

This is a fascinating article. It goes on from the initial analysis below to profile areas predicted to be worst affected using an RSA methodology. Described as follows:

This approach calculates the total number of jobs at risk in each local area by identifying the number of jobs in each industry in that area multiplied by the estimated percentage of those that have been furloughed on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The RSA then divide this by the total number of jobs in each local area to calculate the percentage of jobs at risk.

The top 5 worst affected are all rural in order: Richmondshire, Eden, East Lindsey, South Lakeland and Derbyshire Dales. This shows the disproportionate impact of the virus on rural economies. It is a call to arms for those responsible for economic policy.  We know that rural areas as a consequence of their relative isolation find it difficult to recover from economic shocks and therefore the long term legacy of this trend could well be the hollowing out of rural economies.

By way of a prelude to this deeply worrying list the article tells us:

More than 20,000 people have died from Covid-19 in NHS hospitals and thousands more in care homes. But there are growing concerns about the economic impact of lockdown. Gerard Lyons, Johnson’s economics adviser when he was London mayor, warned on Sunday the UK could be the hardest-hit western economy if it does not unlock soon.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, also called on ministers to start talking to teachers, businesses, trade unions and town hall leaders and open “honest conversations with the public about what new arrangements might look like”. Unions insist worker safety must not be compromised by any changes and questions remain about public appetite for risking a new peak of contagion, but plans to modify restrictions are starting to emerge.


Coronavirus: The towns most economically at risk from coronavirus pandemic

This article uses a different methodology but comes up with the same findings, isolated coastal settlements are being slain economically by the virus. It tells us:

Coastal and ex-industrial towns are most economically at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.

Sky News analysis of the data for England and Wales shows that although some high-risk towns also suffer already high levels of social and economic deprivation, there is no clear correlation between deprived towns and towns hard hit by lockdown.

Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire is in the top five most at-risk towns

The research conducted by the Centre For Towns and the University of Southampton, and seen exclusively by Sky News, also indicates that Wales is worst affected, while the South East is faring best.

Half of the coastal towns are among the top 10% most at risk, and a third of ex-industrial towns.

The top five most at risk towns are coastal towns: Mablethorpe, Skegness, Clacton-on-Sea, Bridlington and Kinmel Bay.

And of the top 20 most at risk towns in the UK, nine were coastal and 10 were ex-industrial with only one, Peterlee in the North East, not listed as either.


And Finally

Show but don’t tell: why silent Zooms are golden for focusing the mind

Well here’s something that represents just how far and how weird things have become. What do you think to the idea of a silent zoom call? Sounds to me a bit like the concept of the 1970s silent record….This article tells us:

There are Zooms for pub quizzes, Zooms for dinner parties, Zooms for work meetings and now there is a Zoom for sitting together and not talking at all. Behold, the silent Zoom!

On paper, the practice of logging on to a video-conferencing site to sit with strangers for an hour without communicating may hold limited appeal. In practice, silent Zooms have become a lifeline in lockdown for users trying to focus on writing, reading, meditation and more.

Author Anne Penketh has been retreating to “a virtual monastic retreat” for an hour every day to work on her novel. Initially, she struggled to understand the concept: what would be the point of Zoom without conversation? Finding silence to write in was not a problem for her, so Penketh was sceptical about what would make silence so productive in a potentially awkward group setting. She became a convert from the very first session.

“[My friend] Carola said: try to imagine it as working in a library, and now I’m completely hooked,” she wrote. “Three of us continued our silent Zoom sessions over the weekend as they’ve proved so productive for us all.”


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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