Coronavirus strikes harder in weaker neighborhoods: residents less protected

This is evident from an analysis by the research editorial team of RTL Nieuws. In it, contamination and test figures of 39 neighborhoods and districts in the four major cities were compared.

In many neighborhoods with a high contamination rate, such as Laak in The Hague, Southeast in Amsterdam and Feijenoord in Rotterdam, a relatively large number of inhabitants live with a low socio-economic status. This concerns, for example, poorer and lower educated families. Relatively many migrants also live in these neighborhoods.

Positive tests per 100,000 inhabitants per district

No surprise

Not every district that is lagging behind is hit equally hard, as the Utrecht Overvecht shows, for example. But it is no surprise to field epidemiologist Arnold Bosman that the weaker neighborhoods are generally hit harder. “You also see in other countries that these kinds of neighborhoods score worse than average.”

According to Bosman, financial considerations, for example, can make people less protected. “Wearing a face mask is an advice, but you have to buy a face mask yourself. That costs money and so people choose not to do it.”

Unfavorable living conditions

Extraordinary professor of health inequalities Maria van den Muijsenbergh sees that residents of weaker neighborhoods are more susceptible to ailments. “We know that many people live in those neighborhoods who, due to unfavorable living conditions, have a greater risk of all kinds of diseases. This includes corona.”

For example, people live closer together and in larger households. In addition, they more often have jobs where working from home is not possible. As a result, they are less well protected, says the professor.

According to Van den Muijsenbergh, it is not the case that residents of these neighborhoods don’t care about the virus. “On the contrary. We feel that there is an extra fear of corona. These people have a much greater chance that a corona infection is much more serious, because they more often already have additional diseases such as obesity or cardiovascular diseases.”

‘Outside the boat’

Nevertheless, in her practice in the Rotterdam district of Feijenoord, GP Yolanda Jansen sees that not everyone uses the rules correctly. “We ask people not to come with complaints and to wear a mouth mask. Yet people still walk in here every day, coughing and spluttering.”

According to Jansen, in most cases it is not unwillingness, but people no longer know which rules apply. According to her, it is partly because the ever-changing policy is no longer easy to follow. She also sees a clear gap between rich and poor.

“Residents do not have their groceries delivered here. That is too expensive. So the supermarket is full. And there is often no car to drive to a test street a long way away. The government does not pay enough attention to this. These people are increasingly left out. “

‘If people break rules, I speak to them’

Siegmien Nagi from the Feijenoord district of Rotterdam thought she had ‘just’ contracted a flu in May of this year. Ten days later she was taken to hospital by ambulance and it turned out to be corona.

“Now I would have called the doctor right away. It’s a terrible disease.” The 41-year-old Rotterdam has lost the virus, but is still not the old one. She does not know where she contracted the virus. “I adhered to the measures well, so it must have been in a place like the supermarket.”

She now uses her own unpleasant experience to warn others in her environment. “‘Now when I see people who break the rules, I speak to them to tell them my experiences. It frightens them. But you do not wish this disease to anyone, therefore: keep to the rules.”

Test ratio per Amsterdam district

25 percent test positive

In addition to the fact that contamination figures are higher in weaker neighborhoods, it is also noticeable that residents are tested less often. The number of tests taken per 100,000, for example, in Laak in The Hague and Nieuw-West and Southeast in Amsterdam is much lower than the average in those cities.

And if testing is done, it often hits the mark. Last week, for example, 263 of the 1,069 residents of Amsterdam Southeast who had themselves tested proved positive. Almost 25 percent. In the rest of Amsterdam it was 16.5 percent, in the whole of the Netherlands 9 percent.

“You don’t want figures like that,” says field epidemiologist Arnold Bosman. “You want the number of people who test positive to be less than 5 percent. Preferably between 1 and 2 percent.” He would like to see testing options expanded. “In France, the threshold for getting tested is much lower. You can get tested at any pharmacy.”

More research

Van den Muijsenbergh also calls for more research into the exact causes of the differences, so that they can be tackled where possible. “My fingers itch when I see these numbers.”

According to her, it is currently important that clear information is shared in understandable language. “And make sure there is good support for people who are in financial difficulties. Take away the fear of debt. Make sure that it does not become an obstacle.”


For the above comparison, figures have been collected from the four GGDs that cover the major cities. For Amsterdam and The Hague, figures were collected for both the proportion of positive tests and the total number of tests taken for each district. For Rotterdam and Utrecht, this only concerns the proportion of positive tests per district.

In order to be able to compare the neighborhoods, the most recent available figures for all cities have been used. This concerns figures for weeks 36 and 37. For the test ratio, all available data for the boroughs in The Hague and Amsterdam were examined separately.

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