Covid-19: The Social and Financial Impact of the Pandemic

While people around the globe were busy with their daily lives, a sudden virus outbreak slowed down their daily routines and reversed many aspects of their lives. Some countries were hit the worst, including the UK. Unable to control the crisis in the first stages, they have experienced financial downturns and huge social changes.

It has been nearly one year since Covid-19 dramatically hit people and their daily lives across the globe. The virus which first emerged in Wuhan, China, soon spread to other continents including Europe. Britain has been one of the most affected countries in Europe with a high rate of infections and a high rate of deaths; people here have experienced many changes during this period. As the pandemic began to spread, the UK government announced a nationwide lockdown and businesses and services had to close for a while. It put great pressure on the country, imposing many unexpected financial burdens. These changes to daily life caused anxiety and doubt about the future among people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Covid-19 pandemic greatly impacted people’s well-being from the start. Food availability, household finances, and incomes have been greatly affected and lifestyles have changed. Recently, a new strain has been detected in the UK which puts more pressure on the financial sector. Because of the emergence of the recent variant, major European and non-European countries have suspended flights and freights to and from the UK. It means that all imported foods and medicines will no longer reach the UK, creating some shortages; prices may also spike, inflicting further financial burdens on the population.

Based on official data, due to the effects of Covid-19, the UK economy has declined by 9.7% from the start of the year. In addition to the pandemic, Brexit anxieties are rising for business and the finance sector in the country. The UK economy suffered one of the largest collapses in Europe and lockdowns during the pandemic forced Britain into recession. Chancellor Rishi Sunk once told the BBC that the UK economy acted worse than its EU counterparts facing the Covid-19. A group of economists believes that it can take some years for the UK economy to get entirely back on course and some fear that unemployment in the country can rise up to 10% or higher during this time.

A study shows that, overall, many young people have been under great pressure by losing their jobs during the pandemic or experiencing wage cuts. Another study found that nine months after the pandemic hit the country, the total number of people living in poverty has risen to more than 15 million, which is 23% of the population.

Covid-19 lockdowns, plus the end of the Brexit transition period, have placed extra pressure on the UK economy. The Guardian has seen a cabinet briefing that warns of prominent risk in the UK during the coming months, which can be the result of a “storm of simultaneous disasters” such as the flu season colliding with tensions in the healthcare system; add to that shortages in foodstuffs and goods due to the suspension of transportation to the country after the new Covid variant in the UK prevented it from importing essential items.

The pandemic has also brought about social inequalities across key domains of life in Britain. One such area affected is the NHS. A research in February reviewed ten years of health services in the country. According to the research, health inequalities, specifically in England during that decade, have increased greatly. It indicates that differences in various regions and on various socioeconomic levels are huge and rising. Ever since February, the pandemic and failures by the governmental to respond adequately have worsened inequalities in healthcare. In this vicious circle, deprived people experience a higher risk of infection and poor health puts them at greater risk if they are infected. This also reveals ethnic and racial discrimination in UK society as these groups experience more deprivation. Official data shows a higher number of deaths among Black and Asian communities in the UK.

Another social change can be seen in the hopes and trust of the people. Around half of British adults complain about experiencing high levels of anxiety during the pandemic. People aged 70 and over and those with specific health conditions undergo more anxiety because they are at higher risk for the virus. They have great doubts about the future of their jobs, income levels, family, and health conditions. Due to pressures caused by the pandemic, ordinary social activities are no longer like before and surveys in Britain show life satisfaction falling to a low level; happiness scores have also kept dropping.

Covid-19 and lockdowns across the globe have made people more tech-dependent. According to ONS figures on British internet users in 2019, nearly half the people aged 75 and over never used the internet. So the adaptation of these older people to digital technology during the Covid-19 crisis is a matter of concern. Depending on the internet is an important matter in all aspects of life, like shopping and banking, that everyone can deal with on a daily basis; but for the people who are unfamiliar with digital life it is difficult to use devices and find proper online help. Since the elderly have difficulty working with new technology, some activists have called for people to help them with digital life.

The coronavirus crisis across the UK has been especially bad, infecting large numbers of people and taking thousands of lives. But millions of jobs are also at risk and a large number of people have low life satisfaction and happiness. At the same time, another variant of the virus has been detected which puts the country at a higher level of risk. Business leaders say the new measures, combined with new restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, can be a blow to businesses that have been struggling for a long time now, posing a risk of bankruptcies and spiking unemployment. Britain’s “virus-stricken” economy headed towards the deepest recession in living memory just one month after the first lockdown. The recession is the result of harm done to jobs, companies, living standards, the GDP, inflation and house prices. The financial crisis adds to the social changes that people have been facing and struggling to adapt to throughout the past year, which will continue into the coming year.



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