A warning has been given that people need to become healthier if the borough is to better withstand a future pandemic.

Matthew Cole, the borough's director of public health, called for change during discussion of the virus's impact on health differences in Barking and Dagenham.

Mr Cole said, at the town hall meeting on Wednesday, February 10: "This generation has to become healthier otherwise we'll see a similar picture when another pandemic comes along and we can't count against that not happening."

He added there was no doubt health inequalities will have been impacted by Covid. These are defined by the NHS as "unfair and avoidable" differences in health due to the conditions in which people live.

Mr Cole talked of feeling convinced Covid-19 deaths were affected by poor life expectancy, obesity rates and the number of adults living with underlying conditions including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In Barking and Dagenham, life expectancy is the lowest in the capital, with women on average living to the age of 83 and men to 78, according to London's Poverty Profile.

He added it was a time for residents, Barking and Dagenham Council, the NHS, voluntary sector and businesses to "press the health reset button".

Health levels, the amount invested in prevention, cancer screening, MMR, flu and Covid jab programmes should take on even more importance, he urged.

"We don't want to see excess deaths figures like we've seen over the last 12 months. This is a call to really focus what we do over the next 10 or 15 years to bring our life expectancy up to the England average if not better," Mr Cole said.

He called on residents to get behind health initiatives and adopt healthier lifestyles to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

Child and adult mental health was predicted by the public health director to leap up the list of priorities for the borough's health authorities.

"Although I think they've shown great resilience, there are those members of our community who have been really blighted by the last 12 months," Mr Cole said.

Council figures shared on Thursday, February 11, show there were 22,251 confirmed Covid cases over the previous seven days. A total of 470 people have died, with 200 Covid-related deaths since Christmas.

Barking and Dagenham has the sixth highest rate of infection out of all London boroughs. In total, 17,667 people have received a vaccine.