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New research outlines pandemic policy lessons for London’s leaders

Major policy changes are needed for London to recover from the long-term impacts of Covid-19, according to the latest Queen Mary research on how the pandemic affected communities across the capital.

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As the UK Covid public inquiry starts to explore national planning and political decision-making, new research from our School of Geography calls for urgent action to tackle issues and inequalities in the capital made worse by the pandemic.

This follows a recent study in the Lancet finding “massive global failures” in government responses to Covid-19, with researchers urging investment and planning to reduce future threats, such as the looming “twindemic” of Covid and flu reported in the British Medical Journal.

The new research draws on 67 in-depth interviews with Londoners spanning a wide range of ages, ethnicities, faiths and migration backgrounds, using their personal experiences to understand the pandemic’s long-term impacts and recommend policies that will help the city recover.

The study also details the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the capital, with over 3 million recorded cases (more than 15 per cent of England’s total cases) and almost 24,000 deaths from the virus (the highest regional mortality rate after adjusting for age differences) since March 2020 – and an even heavier toll on some communities and neighbourhoods, with higher mortality rates among Black and minority ethnic Londoners as well as those living in areas with higher social deprivation scores.

Principal investigator Professor Alison Blunt from Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Studies of Home commented: “Our study highlights many lessons from life in lockdown for local and national leaders and policy-makers. Covid-19 hit London particularly hard, and its impact deepened existing issues and inequalities across the city, so long-term change is needed if we are to truly recover from the pandemic.”

Professor Blunt and the wider research team are calling for national and local policy interventions on four key issues, which their study found to have significant impact on Londoners’ wellbeing:

  1. Housing inequality and precarity in the capital is infamous - and these problems deepened in lockdown when many people had to live in unsafe conditions, some struggling in overcrowded households while others faced the isolation of living alone.
  2. Green space is vital for mental health and social connection, but inequalities in the city leave many people without easy or safe access to gardens or parks.
  3. Tensions around race and immigration can feed mistrust of the police, NHS and other authorities in some communities - making them less likely to engage with important public health messages and support services.
  4. Community and faith organisations were lifelines in lockdown, and are key to pandemic recovery, but many providing this support are under unbearable strain.

The research outlines the policies needed at local authority, Greater London and national scales to start addressing these issues and building a stronger city in the wake of the pandemic.

Recommendations include:

  • Making adequate space for home-working and access to green spaces (personal and/or communal) a priority in future housing policies and developments
  • Providing extra support to meet the specific needs of single-person households, LGBTQ+ families, dual-household families and vulnerable households
  • Including access to green spaces in policies on physical and mental health, neighbourhood cohesion and children’s welfare 
  • Making parks and other green spaces safe, welcoming and accessible for all
  • Co-ordinating state care and support systems with those provided in the community, communicating and consulting with organisations on-the-ground
  • Funding those on-the-ground to improve digital tools, translation services and accessibility
  • Supporting the leaders of community and faith groups, particularly those who work alone
  • Establishing a working group including all faith groups and people without religious beliefs to support the new UK Commission on Bereavement, and funding work as needed to address the impact of being unable to grieve those lost in lockdown with traditional mourning rituals.

Professor Blunt explained: “The newly launched UK Covid public inquiry is due to look first at planning, preparedness and political decision-making – areas where our research, and wider evidence from the pandemic so far, suggests the government really fell short. Learning from those mistakes is vital, and now is the time to put protective policies in place that will support long-term pandemic recovery.”

To read the newly published report, and find out more about the wider research project, go to

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