Welsh-speaking communities are “likely to experience heavy population losses” if coronavirus spreads around the UK, according to research by the University of St Andrews.
The research warns that death rates could be between 50% and 80% higher if the outbreak reaches isolated rural areas.
Researchers fear this could have long-term socio-cultural impacts on certain communities, particularly on areas which are strongholds for minority languages.
“The Covid-19 pandemic may also have long-term socio-cultural effects,” Professor Hill Kulu, who co-authored the study with his colleague Peter Dorey, said.
“The Welsh, Gaelic and Cornish-speaking communities with relatively old populations are likely to experience heavy population losses if the virus spreads widely across the UK.
“If the pandemic is to last long and the virus is to spread to all areas of the UK, remote small towns and rural communities are projected to have 50% to 80% higher death rates than the main cities because of their old population composition.
“Remote location may offer protection from Covid-19 to some areas but if the virus is to spread to these communities the effects will be devastating.”
The study investigates the contribution of population age structure to mortality from Covid-19 in the UK by geography.
Its analysis projects death rates by applying data on age-specific fatality rates to the area’s population by age and sex.
High-risk and vulnerable communities are concentrated in large areas of south-west England, coastal communities of east and south-east England, the north of Wales, northern England, southern Scotland and the north-west Highlands.
“Within urban regions there are also pockets of high projected death rates,” Peter Dorey said.
“Overall, the areas with high and low fatality rates tend to cluster because of the high residential separation of different population age groups in the UK.”