Cold and damp homes exacerbating COVID-19 risk, report warns

People living in cold and damp homes are at an increased risk of catching COVID-19 this autumn, according to a new study.

The report by the Centre for Ageing Better and The King’s Fund highlights the increased risk poor-quality housing has on vulnerable people and on those with a pre-existing health condition.

It comes as the devolved governments around the United Kingdom announce new restrictions, designed to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases this autumn.

According to the report, around one in five excess deaths during the winter are attributed to cold housing.

The report warns many people identified as most at risk of COVID-19, including older people, those with pre-existing health conditions and Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups, are more likely to be living in non-decent homes, along with those on low incomes.

It adds that a winter lockdown could also see increased fuel bills and exacerbate fuel poverty, with people spending more time in their homes and struggling to keep poorly insulated homes warm for longer periods.

Spending extended periods exposed to cold can exacerbate or induce respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, in turn increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19.

‘Winter is always a worrying time for people living in poor-quality, cold and damp homes, particularly for those people who struggle to afford to heat them and keep them warm,’ said the Centre for Ageing Better’s evidence manager, Holly Holder.

‘This winter millions could find the danger they face is even greater. Spending long periods of time in a cold, damp and unsafe home is bad for people’s health and could increase the risk of serious consequences if someone were to contract COVID-19,’ she added.

‘The government urgently needs to reach out to these at-risk groups so any immediate interventions can be made to make homes warmer, free of damp and safer. We also need government to address the crisis in the quality of housing and recognise the key role that housing plays in the health resilience of our communities.’

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