Young women bearing brunt of UK's second Covid wave, SAGE warns

Young women bearing brunt of UK's second Covid wave, SAGE warns

September 23, 2020

Young women between 20 and 40 are bearing the brunt of the UK’s second wave of Covid-19, NHS hospital data reveals

  • SAGE says hospital admissions for women aged 20 to 40 are rising steeply  
  • These women more likely to work in retail, hospital and other front-facing jobs 
  • Experts say increased exposure and fraying adherence to rules causing spike 

Young women are ‘bearing the brunt’ of coronavirus during the disease’s resurgence, government scientific advisers have warned.

Analysis of hospital records shows there has been a significant rise in the number of females aged 20 to 40 being admitted for serious Covid-19 infection since August.

SAGE suspects the rise is due to women in this age group being more likely to work in customer-facing jobs that make them vulnerable to contracting the disease. 

The problem is being compounded due to fraying adherence to social distancing rules putting young women at risk, according to Professor Calum Semple, an infectious disease expert at Liverpool University and a member of SAGE.

During the first wave of the pandemic in Britain, men were disproportionately struck down by coronavirus — a trend that has been seen worldwide.  

Professor Semple’s analysis shows that, from January to August, 56 per cent of the 130,000 Covid-19 admissions were men and 44 per cent were women.

But, since August 1, women have made up 48 per cent of those treated in hospital, with the vast majority of admissions among women aged between 20 and 40. 

Young women are ‘bearing the brunt’ of coronavirus during the disease’s resurgence. Experts say this is because they work in customer-facing jobs in retail and hospitality (file)

Office for National Statistics data from 2013 shows women are disproportionately more likely to work in the care, leisure, retail and hospitality sectors

Professor Semple believes the problem has been caused by a combination of women being more likely to work in hospitality and retail — where they come into contact with customers regularly — and people ignoring social distancing rules. 

He told the Guardian: ‘We’re seeing a big excess. Something is wrong in the way society is being managed because women between 20 and 40 are currently taking the brunt of this second wave.

Dominic Raab today warned the UK ‘could end up in a national lockdown’ if Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus crackdown fails to get the disease under control. 

The Foreign Secretary said a second shutdown ‘is what we want to avoid’ but the nuclear option remains in the Government’s ‘arsenal’ if all else fails. 

Mr Raab said he hoped ‘if everyone plays by the rules’ then the nation will be able to go into the Christmas period without a national lockdown being imposed. 

He also defended the Government’s plans to allow the police to ask the Army for help in order to boost Covid-19 enforcement. 

Mr Raab said military personnel could be drafted in to ‘relieve capacity’ and allow officers to concentrate on enforcing rules as he dismissed claims that soldiers will be patrolling the streets as ‘scaremongering’. 

The Foreign Secretary’s intervention came as critics blasted the Government for seemingly failing to take any of the responsibility for the spike in cases despite ministers presiding over numerous chaotic U-turns and policy changes in recent months. 

Tory MPs said the Government’s handling of the crisis has been a ‘total shambles’ and that repeated shifts in official guidance had left many people across the country confused as to what the rules actually are. 

Meanwhile, it was claimed that Professor Chris Whitty has told Mr Johnson that England will likely have to follow Scotland’s lead in banning visits between separate households.

‘It’s clear to me that these working women are being exposed to the virus and that can only be because other parts of society are not taking heed of the guidance. The message is that Covid is real and it does affect younger adults.’  

Professor Semple spotted the trend in data he has been gathering from hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland throughout the crisis for the Covid-19 Clinical Information Network, or Co-Cin.

Co-Cin has been feeding weekly updates on the disease’s trajectory to the Department of Health and Social Care. 

Professor Semple believes there has been an uptick in young women who work in the care and leisure sectors testing positive for the virus, which has contributed to the rise.

But there was no evidence that the reopening of schools has had any effect on infections.

Women’s charities said the finding was ‘deeply concerning’ and claimed measures to kick-start the economy over summer had disproportionately affected women.

Sophie Walker, the chief executive of the charity Young Women’s Trust, told the newspaper: ‘It is deeply concerning that women who have been on the front line of our care response and economic recovery might also be at increased risk from the virus.

‘We urge the government to analyse closely the impact on young women from close contact with the virus via the paid and unpaid work they have been asked to shoulder – from work in care homes, shops, pubs and restaurants to unpaid caring for children who are sent home from school.

‘If directives such as ‘eat out to help out’ and the focus on the school return are having a disproportionate impact on women’s health we need to have an urgent response plan.’  

In the last month, daily hospital admissions in England have risen by five-fold. On August 30, there were just 38 patients taken to hospital after falling ill with the virus.

Whereas 205 people with Covid-19 were admitted on Friday – the most since June 27, when the figure was 209. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned hospitalisations are doubling every eight days, a trend which, alongside other troublesome statistics, has prompted the rollback of draconian social curbs. 

Yesterday Boris Johnson imposed a 10pm curfew on all restaurants, bars and pubs across England from Thursday with the hospitality sector also being restricted to table service only.

A requirement to wear face coverings will be extended to include retail workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings, except for when they are seated at a table to eat or drink.

He also announced the end of the Government’s back to work drive as he said he is now ‘asking office workers who can work from home to do so’.

The Government has been actively encouraging workers to ditch working from home and yesterday’s U-turn represents a humiliating climbdown for the PM who earlier this month had told his Cabinet that ‘people are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country and quite right too’.

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