Noting that the closure of local pubs and community centres in remote areas has been a trend in recent years which the pandemic is likely to exacerbate.
The article argues that understanding the impact of COVID-19 is therefore ‘crucial’ when considering the long-term future of the UK’s rural communities.
Less income available to support the local shops and services that had managed to survive has been a particular problem for rural retailers, given the smaller customer numbers they serve and the lower amount of passer-by traffic compared to urban areas.
It is also harder to work from home in many rural areas. A lack of access to higher quality internet bandwidth for rural residents had a negative impact on those required to work, attend school or study from home. This affected both levels of productivity and quality of service experienced by rural users.
Cases of shielding and levels of self-isolation among rural residents are more frequent, and the level of critical care required in rural areas is also higher.
The article also sites new research showing that COVID-19 has had a more detrimental effect on hospital waiting times in rural and remote hospital trusts than for urban trusts.
First consultant appointments for cancer have fallen by two thirds (66 per cent) in rural trusts when compared with April 2019. Urban trusts have seen a decrease of 59 per cent for these appointments.
The Government has already taken measures to keep businesses afloat, but the article calls for specific measures targeting rural communities and businesses in order to safeguard quality of life and wellbeing in the countryside.
The Conversation - COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on rural communities
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