THE Covid pandemic has caused the biggest fall in life expectancy in Europe since World War II. Data from 29 European countries, the USA and Chile recorded reductions in life expectancy last year and at a scale that has wiped out years of progress. 

The biggest declines in life expectancy were among males in the US, with a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels. Life expectancy losses exceeded those recorded around the time of the dissolution of the eastern block in Europe. 

Males experienced larger life expectancy declines than females across most of the 29 countries. Most reductions were due to official Covid deaths. Life expectancy for males has fallen in England from 79.5 years in 2015-17 to 79.3 years in 2018-2 but has risen slightly in the north of Ireland from 78.4 to 78.7.

Preliminary research has found that even mild cases of Covid-19 leave a mark on the brain. The findings are raising concerns about the long-term impacts that the Coronavirus might have on biological processes such as aging. Marked differences in gray matter have been found with its thickness in some brain regions being reduced in those who had been infected with Covid-19. Researchers also investigated changes in performance on cognitive tasks and found that those who had contracted Covid-19 were slower in processing information. 

Unanswered questions remain as to what these brain changes following Covid-19 mean for the process and pace of aging.

On the other end of the scale around 900 children across the North caught Covid-19 in school after returning to class in March. 

Almost 95 per cent of children identified as close contacts did not go on to develop Covid-19. There is now to be a more targeted approach to the identification of close contacts.

The Executive has decided to end social distancing restrictions for shops, theatres and some indoor settings. Ministers decided to remove the one-metre distance requirement for the retail sector, indoor sector, indoor attractions and seated indoor venues.

The Department of Health reports a further four deaths and 1,078 positive cases of the virus with the death toll now 2,552. The latest figures show that young people aged between 10 and 14 years old account for a fifth of all positive cases in the last week. Hospitals are at 104 per cent capacity with seven sites over capacity. Hospital admissions are decreasing. There were 195 Covid in patients in the last week compared to 235 the week before. There are 362 people in hospital with the disease. 27 people are in intensive care with 24 on ventilators.