Lockdown anniversary: Chichester district’s year in figures

Today (March 23) marks one year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that everyone across the UK was to stay at home for the first time, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 8:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 8:33 am
Chichester stands empty during lockdown. Pic Steve Robards

It has been an extraordinary 12 months which have changed our lives in terms of health, financial well-being and simple social contact with family and friends.

And it has been a year in which everyone became interested in the daily numbers of the pandemic. One year on, what does the data tell us about how Covid-19 has hit Chichester?

Cases and deaths

Since the early days of the pandemic, we have been provided with regular updates on the number of new positive cases and, sadly, reported deaths.

In Chichester, 4,776 people had tested positive for Covid-19 by the morning of March 18, Public Health England data shows.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 304 deaths involving the virus were provisionally registered in the area up to March 13.

Of those, 134 occurred in hospitals, while there were 142 deaths in care homes and 11 at private homes.

A further 17 deaths occurred in hospices, other community establishments or elsewhere.

It means deaths which happened outside hospital settings accounted for 56% of the overall toll.

Health experts have repeatedly said “excess deaths” – the number of deaths above the annual expected number – are a better measure of the overall impact of the coronavirus pandemic than simply looking at mortality directly linked to Covid-19.

ONS figures on this show that 1,807 people died of all causes in Chichester between March 2020 and February 2021 – the latest available data.

That was 22% above the 1,476 deaths which occurred over the same period a year earlier.

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The labour market

As well as being the biggest health crisis in decades, the coronavirus pandemic has also brought rapid change to the UK’s jobs market.

Unemployment rates have surged along with a rise in job uncertainty, and many more people are seeking support from unemployment benefits.

One of the defining elements of the Government’s response to the spread of Covid-19 was the launch of emergency income support schemes to protect jobs.

Back in March last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or “furlough” scheme, to help firms struggling with the impact of the virus.

By the end of May, just two months later, businesses had already put around 13,800 employments on furlough in Chichester.

At the same time, people in the area had made roughly 5,300 claims made under the separate Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

In January, 8,800 jobs were on furlough in Chichester, with 4,600 reliant on the SEISS scheme.

ONS figures show that in early March last year, 1,355 people in Chichester were claiming out-of-work benefits.

By mid-January, that figure had risen more than double to 3,275.

The figures include those aged 16 to 64 on Jobseeker’s Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants, who are unemployed and seeking work or employed but with low earnings.

The ONS has regularly cautioned that changes to Universal Credit in response to the virus mean more people can get the benefits while still being employed, which mean the figures can’t be used to measure unemployment on a local basis.

It also said a small number of people who can claim both JSA and UC could be counted twice.

What about house prices?

The property market has also felt the impact of the pandemic, with the average UK house price rising to a record £252,000 at the end of last year.

The ONS said Government support schemes, particularly the stamp duty holiday, may be a factor behind the national rise.

In Chichester, the average cost of a property was £378,242 in February, just before the Covid-19 crisis hit, according to Land Registry figures.

By December, that had risen to £407,394 – an increase of 8%.

Vaccinations

After an extremely difficult year for many of us, the vaccine rollout is providing a glimmer of hope for a life not bound by restrictions.

NHS data shows 58,598 people in Chichester had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by March 14.

More than 25 million people across the UK have had their first jab.