Global research into how vulnerable people have been hit by official responses to Covid-19

Academics from Swansea University are part of an international study exploring the impact of Covid-19 governmental responses on vulnerable groups.

COVINFORM is one of twenty three new research projects receiving €128m in total funding from the European Commission to address the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.

Swansea University reports Professor Sergei Shubin, director of its Centre of Migration Policy Research, and his colleagues Louise Condon, professor of nursing, and Dr Diana Beljaars, from the College of Science, are part of COVINFORM, a three year EU project with sixteen partner organisations from eleven countries.

Since it first emerged in December 2019, Covid-19 has had an unprecedented global social, behavioural and economic impact. Its consequences go far beyond physical health and have influenced everyday life and wellbeing, mental health, education, employment, and political stability.

COVINFORM was set up to analyse the way leaders and communities across the world have responded to Covid, with a particular focus on how the most vulnerable in society have been affected.

Among those disproportionally hit are health workers, at risk groups, older people, children and migrants.

Sergei Shubin said “Our objective is to understand the effect of public health and governmental responses on Covid-19 on vulnerable and marginalised populations, and explore different dimensions of vulnerability emerging during the pandemic.

“Policymakers and public health experts unanimously recognise the disproportionate impact it has had on these groups. Even in countries with well-developed responses, the outbreak and its repercussions imperil the well-being of social groups whose livelihoods are already precarious.”

The researchers say the need for effective communication during the pandemic has been heightened by the vast amount of false information and conspiracy theories circulating online.

Louise Condon said “False information can circulate quickly within communities and via social media – leading to a lack of trust in ‘official’ government messages and advice from health professionals.“

Swansea University is the only representative from Wales in the consortium which sees experts from a variety of organisations sharing their knowledge to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to the issue.

Other partners include universities, practitioners and research organisations, as well as representatives from industry. They come from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

The project draws upon intersectionality theory and complex systems analysis of responses at government, public health and community level, as well as information and communications. Promising practices will be evaluated through case studies spanning diverse disciplines and vulnerable populations.

COVINFORM’S aims include:

  • Improving the resilience, wellbeing and mental health of the population, frontline workers and vulnerable groups and mitigate health inequalities during and after pandemics
  • Contributing to a better understanding of the impact, effectiveness, the public health preparedness and responses that have been taken
  • Preparing holistic assessments of the social, economic and political impacts of the outbreak and its responses
  • Increasing holistic public health preparedness and response in the context of ongoing and future epidemics
  • Equipping health authorities with guidance for further public health interventions

The project will also provide guidance and recommendations for more inclusive policies that consider the needs of different groups as well as giving a voice to members of vulnerable groups.

The partners will also create a Covid-19 Knowledge Repository, bringing together civil protection and disaster management experts and organisations, integrating Covid expertise and resources.

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