Covid death rates linked to poverty and high-density housing

Official death rate figures from the ONS show that over-intensification of housing has played a part in helping the spread of coronavirus, as Croydon’s NHS chief warns against ‘inequalities’. BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports

Croydon has suffered a far higher death rate from coronavirus than much of the country, as the more economically deprived and densely populated parts of London have recorded up to four times as many deaths from the virus than more prosperous and rural locations in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS analysis, the first detailed work of its kind since the pandemic reached these shores, show covid-19 exacerbating existing large health inequalities.

“It can never be right that someone’s life chances are so profoundly affected by where they live or how much money their family has,” Helen Barnard, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said yesterday.

And according to the ONS figures, there have been more covid-19 deaths in areas of Croydon with higher density housing than in other parts of the borough.

In Croydon, the ONS analysis was organised into “super output areas”, 44 sub-ward sized districts. Those super output areas with double-digit numbers of covid-19 deaths to April 17 are:

  • Upper Norwood 13
  • Waddon 13
  • Central Croydon & South End 12
  • Purley Downs & lower Sanderstead 12
  • Thornton Heath Ponds 12
  • Beulah Hill 11
  • Bensham Manor west & London Road 10
  • Norbury Park & London Road 10
  • Thornton Heath central 10

The total of covid-19 deaths in Croydon reported up to April 24 (with the date of death being on or before April 17), was


Of those, 233 died in hospital, 34 at a care home or hospice, and 9 at home and 2 elsewhere.

Croydon, which in the early days of the pandemic had been part of London with the highest incidence of the illness, now stands “mid-table” among boroughs in Greater London, 16th out of the 32 boroughs and City of London for covid-19 death rate.

Croydon covid-19 deaths adjusted for varying age demographics as measured by the ONS as of April 17 stood at 88 per 100,000 residents –  just a little above the 85.7 per 100,000 population Greater London average.

Graphic from the FT; data from ONS

Some of the poorest parts of London, where population density is highest, were hardest hit. Coronavirus killed 86 people per 100,000 in the capital, compared with an average of 36 people across the whole of England and Wales, according to the ONS.

Croydon, as a local authority area, has suffered the 18th highest covid-19 death rate across England and Wales (again, based on figures collated up to April 17).

Sutton’s rate is 56.7 per 100,000, Bromley’s 47.9 per 100,000.

Croydon’s higher rate reflects its demographics in the north of the borough being the same as in those, harder-hit inner London Boroughs that exhibit social deprivation and have higher density housing.

Three London boroughs — Newham, Brent and Hackney — stood out as the worst-hit areas with standardised death rates up to four times the national average. In Newham, 144 people per 100,000 were killed by coronavirus, the highest rate in the country. Newham is the poorest borough in London, with 48 per cent living in poverty.

Hospital data from NHS England has already shown that the death rate among black Caribbean people was three times that of white people. The ONS study underlines that poverty and population density significantly increase the risk of being killed by the virus.

The ONS found that the most deprived 10 per cent of postcodes across England and Wales had a death rate of 55 per 100,000, more than twice that of the most affluent postcode areas, where the rate fell to 25 per 100,000.

Matthew Kershaw: NHS chief’s warning on health inequalities

On Wednesday, Matthew Kershaw, the chief executive of the Croydon NHS Trust, gave a private briefing to a closed meeting of Croydon’s Labour councillors, where he told them, “Croydon was hit quite hard and early with the coronavirus pandemic for a whole host of reasons.

“Being a highly populated borough with higher rates of underlying conditions meant we’ve seen a very significant number of patients who have been admitted to Croydon University Hospital. That is now close to 900 people, obviously that doesn’t include anyone who is self-managed or supported by community health.

“If we were to create a positive legacy out of what is a negative situation at the moment, it would be to improve the health of our population and end health inequalities in our borough once and for all.”

Understood to be listening to Kershaw’s briefing was Tony Newman, the leader of the council, and his deputy, Alison Butler, the cabinet member for housing.

It will be instructive whether the lessons drawn from the covid-19 pandemic by the ONS and Kershaw will be put into any policy action by Newman and Butler. Between them they carry a large part of the responsibility for the borough’s disastrous housing policy and Brick by Brick’s efforts to over-develop parts of Croydon with ever more housing.

Graphic from the FT; data from ONS

It is nearly a century since slum clearances were carried out to rid London and other major cities of its inadequate and over-crowded Victorian housing, which had been shown to be a regular source outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases.

This year, Croydon Council, and Brick by Brick, have been accused of a policy of “slumification”, by imposing blocks of flats in areas of existing deprivation and creating over-intensification of housing.

Covid-19 death clusters in areas of higher density housing ought to prove to Croydon Council the deadly risks of trying to squeeze in evermore blocks of flats and further intensifying areas of social deprivation with Brick by Brick developments.

The council’s recent granting of planning permission to a high-rise tower block of nearly 1,000 “co-living” apartments in the town centre may also be thrown into a different, more perilous light, as a result of the ONS statistics.

If, as scientists warn is entirely possible, there is another global pandemic in the next five years, people’s lives could be put at risk through the council’s needless over-intensification of the borough’s housing.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Croydon NHS Trust, Health, Housing, London-wide issues, Matthew Kershaw, Mayday Hospital, Planning, Thornton Heath, Tony Newman, Waddon and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Covid death rates linked to poverty and high-density housing

  1. Colin Cooper says:

    Nobody would seriouisly believe that actual proof that their plans are wholly wrong will make any difference to Comrade Newman’s cabal planning decisions, do they? As long as Brick by Bricking It are lining the correct pockets, NOTHING will change.

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