Valleys will take 'at least a decade' to recover from mental health and economic impact of coronavirus pandemic

  • Watch the full report by ITV Wales National Correspondent Rob Osborne

The south Wales Valleys will take "at least a decade" to recover from the mental health and economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a council leader has warned.

Andrew Morgan, the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, which is the worst place in the UK for Covid deaths, said communities are at risk of "sustained mental health issues" due to the events of the past year.

As well as being hit badly by the virus, severe floods also caused lasting damage in many communities within the county at the start of last year.

Hundreds of homes were flooded in the Valleys during the worst storm to hit Wales for more than 40 years Credit: PA

More than a thousand homes were flooded and around 300 businesses - and around 650 of those homes were in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The council estimated the storm is thought to have caused around £30 million worth of damage.

Just over a month later, the country was plunged into its first national lockdown as transmission of Covid-19 began to take hold in communities across the country.

Almost a year on, non-essential businesses remain closed, as well as schools, pubs and restaurants. Hospitals have faced intense pressure, many people in these areas are out of work, and Mr Morgan thinks the true effects of the pandemic will not be seen until it is over.

Andrew Morgan said he has lost several family members and friends to the virus

"As much as the community came together to support each other I think after the pandemic is over, we might see sustained mental health issues.

"We've seen almost a doubling of the suicide rate in the area - that's something, going forward we need to address".

During December, one in every five people tested were positive and almost 800 people per 100,000 had the virus.

A total of 1,388 people have died in the health board area of Cwm Taf since the start of the pandemic - which is the highest in Wales.

Mr Morgan said burial services have had to expand in the area to cope with demand.

  • Why have the south Wales valleys been so badly affected?

The Valleys are renowned for its terraced houses and some believe the answer could be in the fact the houses are so physically close to one another.

Some believe the closeness of the houses in the Valleys exacerbated the rate of transmission in the area

Professor Ceri Phillips, an expert in health economics, from Swansea University said, "If you look at the streets - the front doors are not two metres apart. If Mrs Jones comes out her front door, she's not two metres apart from Mrs Davies if she comes out of her front door."

"What I think is evident is that in the communities there are underlying poor health", he added.

"What Covid has done is exaggerated that - and it's likely to make those inequalities even greater."