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The Manchester Briefing on COVID-19 issue 36: Pandemic impact on rural communities

Measures required to support people living in rural communities in the wake of the pandemic are discussed in the latest Manchester Briefing from AMBS and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute.

The latest issue, which brings together international lessons for local and national government recovery and renewal in the wake of the pandemic, looks at how The Rural Lives project examined the impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns on individuals experiencing financial hardship and vulnerability in rural areas of the UK.

The study found that lockdowns delivered an acute shock to rural economies and societies, many of which rely heavily on tourism and hospitality, and that the pandemic also amplified the impacts of digital exclusion.

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Financial hardship

Pre-COVID, a substantial proportion of rural residents were found to be financially vulnerable. However this study suggests that many more will be at risk of financial hardship in the coming months and years as the full impacts of the pandemic play out and sources of support become more constrained.

The study suggests future actions to support people living in rural communities. These include: diversifying rural economies and supporting “good work” to offer people a fair and secure income; strengthening business support networks; reinstating and supporting the expansion of mobile and outreach face-to-face services for the most vulnerable, especially those who may be more isolated due to physical distance from services, lack digital literacy or face mental health challenges; and enabling communities to take a more active role in commissioning social care, and enabling community groups to deliver care in their communities.

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Social care recovery

The latest issue also considers measures for social care service recovery. A recent impact assessment Health and Social Care in Wales COVID-19: Looking Froward presents high level expectations for NHS and social care recovery, identifying the challenges and constraints ahead, and priorities for each part of the system.

Measures include: assessing and identifying the “hidden harms” caused by COVID-19 and implementing services that can mitigate the longer term impacts of COVID on communities and individuals; addressing the impacts of ‘long COVID’ to understand the effect on people who receive care and support; and introducing strategies that tackle the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on unpaid carers, focusing particularly on challenges related to respite and support for carers.

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Vaccination passports

The Briefing also discusses digital vaccination passports which have generated a complex debate across the world as an understanding of the COVID-19 virus and the effectiveness of current vaccines is still developing.

It discusses how introducing infrastructure that has the potential to create segregation and risk scoring at an individual level, and enables third-party access to health information, brings profound risks to individual rights.

It cites an Ada Lovelace Institute report which aims to support governments and developers in understanding the design choices and societal impacts, and assesses whether a roll-out of vaccine passports could play a socially beneficial role.

Download this week's Manchester Briefing on COVID-19 (issue 36)

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