Homeless people 'particularly vulnerable' to catching coronavirus

6 March 2020, 21:04

Homeless people are at a greater risk of catching coronavirus, charities warn
Homeless people are at a greater risk of catching coronavirus, charities warn. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Rough sleepers are at a higher risk of catching coronavirus because of "existing health conditions" and poor access to hygiene facilities, charities warn.

Homelessness charities have pressed the government to provide advice on protecting rough sleepers from the deadly Covid-19 disease.

The chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, has said that the homeless face a greater risk "because they are more likely to have a range of existing health conditions."

In addition, rough sleepers are "particularly vulnerable" as they may not be able to regularly wash their hands and may be unable to self-isolate if they become unwell.

Healthcare charity Pathway also warned that "the spread of communicable disease can be swift for people without adequate access to hygiene facilities or a safe home."

In the UK, the number of homeless people dying has been significantly rising in recent years, with 726 deaths recorded in 2018, a sharp rise of 482 since 2013.

Both Crisis and Shelter said they had sought advice from No 10 on limiting the risk posed by Covid-19, however both are still waiting to receive guidance.

Mr Sparkes added: "This guidance must set out what measures government is taking to ensure rough sleepers get appropriate health checks, what accommodation will be provided so that people can self-isolate and advice for the public on how best they can support people who are homeless during the coronavirus outbreak."

A spokesman for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "The mayor is deeply concerned at the lack of specific government advice on coronavirus to protect people living on the street, those in assessment services and people in hostels.

"He urges ministers to engage with the charity sector and to provide official guidance as a matter of urgency."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added: "We've reached out to the government and know they're looking at guidance for people sleeping rough or living in shared hostel accommodation."

The government said it would provide further advice "shortly" and insisted it is "well prepared to deal with the impacts of Covid-19."

"We are already working closely with local authorities to support vulnerable groups including homeless people," a spokesman said.

There were 164 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK as of 9pm on Friday, up from 116 cases reported on Thursday morning.

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