Gaelic-speaking communities could suffer a heavy death toll if Covid-19 becomes widespread, experts at St Andrews University have warned.
A new study has found remote and rural communities could be hit harder than cities, including those in Scotland where Gaelic is spoken.
Although their remote locations could protect from them from infection, out-of-the-way small towns and communities where the virus reaches could suffer a devastating impact due to their higher proportions of elderly residents.
The research was conducted by Professor Hill Kulu and Peter Dorey, from the Fife university’s Centre for Population Change and School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
It found significant geographical differences in projected fatality rates from Covid-19 in the UK, based on age and sex of the population.
Professor Kulu said: “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 a protection from Covid-19 to some areas, but if the virus is to spread to these communities the effects will be devastating.”
Parts of southern Scotland and the Highlands, including Gaelic-speaking communities, were considered the areas with the biggest concentrations of vulnerable communities and people at high risk.
Professor Kulu said: “The Covid-19 pandemics may also have long-term socio-cultural effects.
“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.”
Mr Dorey said: “Within urban regions there are also pockets of high projected death rates.
“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.”