'Covid decade' threatens to hold back UK and exacerbate inequality

Report says there are widening inequalities in areas including health, local economies and poverty

Society will feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for a decade, academics warned on the anniversary of the UK's first lockdown.

They say there needs to be an urgent overhaul of British policies to tackle growing problems in health care, education and social development.

More than 200 academics and policy specialists helped to compile the British Academy's warning, and recommendations for avoiding the worst of their predictions, in a report called The Covid Decade: Understanding the Long-term Societal Impacts of Covid-19.

The report was published on Tuesday.

“There are multiple forms of inequality that create personal and societal obstacles to progress,” said lead author Dominic Abrams, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent.

“Finding ways to create greater inclusiveness, tackle underlying mechanisms of inequality and create the resourcefulness to share a better future will be our biggest challenge during this Covid decade.”

epa09089849 Pedestrians walk through the City of London in London, Britain, 22 March 2021. Lockdown restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic has cost the UK economy a whopping 270bn euros, according to data from the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR). London has been mostly severely hit, losing over 55bn euros. March 23 marks one years since lockdown restrictions began across Britain.  EPA/ANDY RAIN

The report says there are widening geographic inequalities in areas including health, local economies and poverty.

Access to education could be lost and the effects could be worse in areas where there is already socio-economic inequality.

The report says low levels of trust in the national government and severe strain on local community infrastructure threaten to slow any return to normality.

“The Covid decade will also be profoundly shaped by policy decisions and this offers us many opportunities,” Prof Abrams said.

“Government will need to establish a longer-term vision to tackle the impacts of Covid-19.

"This will involve working in partnership with places and people to address structural problems systematically, not just in a piecemeal way.”

The report said tackling tension between local and national leaders will be key to any strategy to help vulnerable people.

Eliminating the divide by treating digital infrastructure as a critical, life-changing public service was among the recommendations.

The report said commercial, educational and social institutions should all act together.

"We are at the beginning of a Covid decade,” British Academy chief executive Hetan Shah said.

“It will require investing in civil society and our social infrastructure to strengthen our local communities, especially in our most deprived areas.

“Science has given us the vaccine to respond to the health crisis, but we will need social science and the humanities to meet the social, cultural and economic crises we face in the Covid decade.”