COVID-19 briefing - Monday 10 August 2020

Through our research, community outreach and expert commentary, the University of Birmingham is taking an active role in the fightback against COVID-19. Read our latest statements and follow our research updates.

Through Birmingham Health Partners, a strategic alliance between the University and two NHS Foundation Trusts, we are working to support frontline healthcare professionals. Visit Birmingham Health Partners.


Covid-19 leaves unpaid carers without physical and mental health treatment

New research shows unpaid carers seeking formal help with their physical and mental health during the lockdown were unable to access it. This was at a time when the majority (70%) of carers had to provide more care for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends, and millions more people took on an unpaid caring role.

New research carried out by the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield, in partnership with Carers UK, shows well over half (58%) of people caring for someone outside of their own home were unable to get through to NHS 111 services in April. This is compared to 33% of the general public. 89% of carers saw their NHS treatments cancelled or postponed in April, compared to 77% of the general public. As it is difficult for many carers to find the time, or get replacement care, to receive treatment, many will still have unresolved health problems.

Previous research has shown that the pressure of lockdown has taken a huge toll on unpaid carers’ mental health, with many reporting feeling isolated, overwhelmed and worried about burning out. Those with acute mental health needs have been unable to get help, with the latest findings showing that close to half (42%) of carers needing psychotherapist services were unable to access them in. Half (50%) of carers needing formal care services could not get them in April, and 40% in May.

Kenyan government must tackle pandemic-related sexual and domestic violence

Urgent action is needed to protect women and girls in Kenya from increased sexual and domestic violence in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, say researchers at the University of Birmingham. The team investigated ways in which the pandemic has heightened the risk of violence across the whole population in Kenya. Factors include a lack of access to alternative safe venues following school closures, increased tensions within households and social isolation.

A report on the findings is being presented to the Kenya’s GBV Gender Sector Working Group, which is convened by the State Department of Gender under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender. The working group consists of more than 80 members representing various organisations (local, International and UN Agencies).

The research was prompted by concerns raised by survivors of sexual violence, Human rights defenders and organisations rights organisations that the COVID-19 crisis has both increased women’s and girl’s vulnerability to violence and also prevented their access to life-saving services. Kenyan government must tackle pandemic-related sexual and domestic violence


COVID-19: The end of homelessness?

David Christie, a Midlands Four Cities AHRC funded doctoral researcher, writes about the challenge of dealing with street homelessness during - and in the aftermath of - the pandemic. When the lockdown ends and accommodation providers go back to their normal business models, the homelessness people residing in them will have to move on. We therefore need to ensure there is appropriate provision in place for them to avoid homeless people returning to the streets. Covid-19: The end of homelessness?


COVID-19 response in developing countries: maintaining a fine balance

Omasanjuwa E. Edun notes that prior to the pandemic,developing countries were already at a disadvantage,with a significant proportion of their population at risk of being disproportionately impacted by the disease on account of living in poverty. Read about the COVID-19 response in developing countries.

COVID-19 – Injecting disinfectant into social media

Dr Mei-Na Liao, Programme Director of MSc International Business in University of Birmingham Dubai, argues that social media tech giants need to take greater responsibility to stop the spread of misinformation. Read about the impact COVID-19 has had on social media.

COVID-19 bringing new life to dying high streets

Dr Sarah Montano, Senior Lecturer in Marketing,writes about the challenge of independent businesses reopening and staying successful, while adhering to the social distancing guidelines. Despite the impact of social distancing and the concerns around local lockdowns, the picture is perhaps not as bleak for local high streets as we might expect, in fact the news for local amenities might be much more positive than that for city centres.

Firstly, this may be because people are more likely to be staying around their immediate locality and not travelling into city centres for work or social activities. Secondly, companies are becoming ‘phygital’ by offering an innovative environment that merges both online (digital) and offline (physical). This may be as simple as integrating an ordering app, that allows customers to stay sat at their tables and order foodand drink, or retailers may offer a click and collect service so that customers can order online and arrive at the premises to collect their order, rather than browsing in store.

Finally, local neighbourhoods are about helping create social experiences and bringing people together, they are not just for the functionality of shopping. Whilst what we can and can’t do at the moment is challenging and frequently changing, our local high streets help to fulfil our social needs, and so one positive effect of the COVID-19 crisis, could actually be that the high street will arise and flourish, where once it was deemed to be dying. Read how COVID-19 is bringing new life to dying high streets.

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In partnership with Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust, NHS University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Health Partners.