Coronavirus cases have risen in 63 local authorities in England in the past week, and Blackburn has become the new epicentre of the country’s outbreak but has so far escaped a local lockdown like the one in Leicester.
The town in Lancashire has seen infections rise by 64 per cent in just one week to 19 July, new data from Public Health England (PHE) reveals, as local health officials grapple with how to handle the outbreak.
There are now 79 cases per 100,000 people in Blackburn up from 48 last week, which is more than Leicester, at 70, where residents are still abiding by a local shutdown that was imposed on June 30.
Health chiefs at PHE have upgraded Blackburn with Darwen to an ‘area of intervention’, and the town has been banned from easing lockdown restrictions with the rest of England, including the re-opening of leisure facilities, until further notice.
Rochdale, Bradford and Kirklees are all at the top of the leaderboard for the highest infection rates across England, and cases do not appear to be slowing.
But it was South Gloucestershire that saw the biggest week-on-week rise in infection rates, jumping 6-fold from 0.35 new cases to two per 100,000 people.
London boroughs also saw a spike in new cases, leading with Enfield where cases are four times higher than the previous week. Richmond upon Thames and Hackney/City of London have also seen cases triple in one week.
Blackburn has become the new epicentre of Covid-19 in England. There are now 79 cases per 100,000 people in Blackburn, more than Leicester, at 70. Rochdale, Bradford and Kirklees are all at the top of the leaderboard for the highest infection rates across England, and cases do not appear to be slowing
The government releases new data every week which shows how rates of positive coronavirus tests are changing in each area.
The current national infection rate is almost seven cases per 100,000 people, which is slightly up on previous weeks. It suggests coronavirus cases in England are either increasing slightly or remaining stable – which fits data collected by other teams.
THE TWENTY AREAS IN ENGLAND WITH THE WORST COVID-19 INFECTION RATES
- Blackburn with Darwen: 79.23 cases per 100,000
- Leicester: 70.1
- Rochdale: 47.27
- Bradford: 39.65
- Kirklees: 28.04
- Luton: 27.56
- Herefordshire, County of: 23.94
- Rotherham: 23.05
- Sandwell: 22.6
- Calderdale: 20.94
- Oldham: 18.25
- Peterborough: 17.41
- Wakefield: 17.39
- Hackney and City of London: 15.26
- Bolton: 14.72
- Barnsley: 13.87
- Northamptonshire: 13.64
- Bedford: 13.4
- Manchester: 12.97
- Birmingham: 12.27
In the week between 13 July and 19 July, 35 local authorities are currently tipping over the average national infection rate.
Half of all authorities in England (74 of 149) have either seen their infection rate stay the same or increase in the past week compared to the week before (6 July to 12 July).
Of the top ten places where rates have hiked, four are in the south of England, which are South Gloucestershire, Enfield, Richmond upon Thames and Hackney/City of London.
Significant hikes in case rates were also observed in the northern authorities of Middlesbrough, Bury, and the cities Kingston upon Hull, Coventry and Nottingham. Sandwell in the West Midlands also saw cases increase.
If a location’s infection rate increases it does not necessarily mean the cases there are spiralling out of control — it could be down to more testing taking place. It is sometimes difficult to work out why the infection rate is rising in some places than others.
The actual number of coronavirus infections in these areas is still very small and even just a handful of newly diagnosed cases in a week risks skewing the rate upwards.
For example in South Gloucestershire, cases have jumped up from 0.35 to two per 100,000 people, which could be due to a family coming down with the coronavirus.
Officials are likely to be keeping their eyes on a handful of areas where local lockdowns might need to be imposed because their overall rate of infections is much higher than the rest of the country.
These places include Blackburn, where it was revealed four days ago that cases are higher than in Leicester, the city which became the first place in the country to have tight lockdown rules reimposed on June 30 due to a spike in Covid-19 infections.
According to the data, Blackburn has 79.23 cases per 100,000 people, up from the 48.34 the previous week and 29.54 the week before that.
Leicester comes in at a close second place, with 70.10 cases per 100,000, a marked 37 per cent decrease in cases from the week before,
Third is Rochdale, with 47.27 cases – up 41 per cent from the week before. The town in Greater Manchester has seen cases rise or remain stable for the past three weeks, and is now catching up with Leicester which once had three times the number of cases.
THE TWENTY AREAS IN ENGLAND WHERE CASES ROSE THIS WEEK
- Between 13 July and 19 July, the 20 areas with the highest spike in cases were:
- South Gloucestershire: 506%
- Enfield: 299%
- Kingston upon Hull, City of: 199%
- Richmond upon Thames: 198%
- Hackney and City of London: 193%
- Bury: 171%
- Middlesbrough: 167%
- Sandwell: 164%
- Coventry: 130%
- Nottingham: 115%
- Redcar and Cleveland: 101%
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole: 100%
- Rutland: 100%
- Torbay: 99%
- Stockport: 92%
- Bedford: 92%
- Solihull: 90%
- Waltham Forest: 78%
- Birmingham: 75%
- Cumbria: 73%
The drop in cases in Leicester suggests the local lockdown is at last working to drive down infections.
In the week Leicester went into lockdown, there were 143.86 cases per 100,000 people, which is still almost double what Blackburn is currently experiencing.
Health officials in Blackburn had asked people to abide by social distancing after warning of a ‘rising tide’ of infections, centered mainly on the town’s large Asian community, two weeks ago.
The Department of Health said new regulations will be signed by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make Blackburn exempt from the national lockdown changes taking place on 25 July – the opening of indoor gyms, pools, and other sport and exercise facilities.
Mr Hancock said: ‘I appreciate this will be disappointing for many people and some businesses in the area but we are in complete agreement with local leaders that the priority must be to protect local residents by stopping the spread of this virus.
‘I have every faith in the local leaders’ ability to help their areas return to normal as soon as possible and in local communities coming together during this time.’
The leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council had already said it was ‘sensible not to relax’ lockdown restrictions, as the rate of Covid-19 cases in the borough shot up.
Councillor Mohammed Khan urged the community to ‘keep up the momentum’ in combating the disease – as PHE data showed 122 new cases were recorded in the seven days to July 20.
‘We are very grateful to our communities for working with us,’ said Mr Khan.
‘The increase in testing is helping to ensure that we are heading in the right direction with a reduction in positive cases and hospital admissions.
‘We need to keep up the momentum with our strong prevention work so we agree it’s sensible not to relax the easing of restrictions at the moment to stop the spread.’
Mr Khan added the decision to delay the reopening of council leisure facilities would run alongside new ‘localised prevention measures’.
‘We feel that accelerating our control measures in this way will assist us to move out of having higher Covid rates even faster – we are grateful for the Government’s help in our local plans on this,’ he said.
PHE has upgraded Blackburn with Darwen to an ‘area of intervention’ following the increase, which defines the area as one ‘where there is divergence from the measures in place in the rest of England because of the significance of the spread, with a detailed action plan in place, and local resources augmented with a national support’.
COVID-19 CASES IN BRITAIN ARE PLATEAUING WITH 2,000 INFECTED EVERY DAY
COVID-19 cases in Britain are barely dropping with almost 2,000 people still becoming infected each day, experts say.
King’s College London‘s COVID Symptom Tracker app estimates cases have remained stable over July for the UK as a whole, but appear to be ‘creeping up’ in the north of England.
Some 1,000 people are catching the coronavirus in the North every day, an increase on the 750 estimated last week.
The rise is too small to say definitively that the outbreak is growing once again but the scientists say they are watching the situation closely.
Data also shows there are an estimated 28,048 people in the population who are currently symptomatic, down slightly from the 26,000 the week before. The figure does not include care homes.
Experts warned there is a limited window to get the virus under control in the summer months before the cold weather potentially drives cases up again.
Official government data also shows the number of people being diagnosed with the disease has surged. This is only people who are tested because they are symptomatic or get a test because they were in contact with a case.
The Department of Health revealed yesterday a further 769 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until July 23 9am. The seven-day-average has increased by more than 10 per cent.
Luton, in Bedfordshire, has also been upgraded to an ‘area of intervention’, though its rate of cases is not that high.
The rate of cases rose slightly from 25.22 per 100,000 in the week to July 12 up nine per cent to 27.56 to July 19.
The council has set up an emergency testing centre at a primary school and is telling locals to stay home as it tries to prevent a further spread of Covid-19.
But Luton Borough Council said it had agreed with Government officials that gyms, pools, and other leisure facilities will not reopen as planned on July 25.
Hazel Simmons, the council leader, said: ‘Our main priority is to protect Luton and these measures only serve to underline the importance of doing just that. Please pass these important messages on to your family and friends and if you can, stay at home.
‘Fighting coronavirus is everyone’s responsibility. Too many families and friends have lost loved ones and we must do everything we can to ensure more lives aren’t wasted unnecessarily. There has been too much heartache in the town for us to risk further anguish, pain and suffering.’
It comes as NHS Test and Trace chief Baroness Dido Harding said there were still concerns surrounding northern towns including Blackburn, Bradford and Leicester.
She told the BBC there were ‘a number of areas in the North West that we are working really closely with’.
‘Other towns and cities on our areas of concern, or areas that are receiving enhanced support, would be places like Blackburn, also Bradford – who we saw increase but have now come down from being in our ‘enhanced support’ category to being in our ‘area of concern’ category,’ she said.
Lady Harding added there were particular concerns about coronavirus spreading in South Asian communities in England. In Blackburn, a local health chief said up to 85 per cent of new Covid-19 infections were among its South Asian population.
Lady Harding said: ‘We are all learning what makes different communities, different professions, different parts of the country more vulnerable. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to say why one place and not another.
‘There are a mix of things – certainly we are seeing a very high prevalence in the South Asian community across the country.’
|Authority||Per cent change in cases in the week July 13 to 19|
|Kingston upon Hull, City of||199%|
|Richmond upon Thames||198%|
|Hackney and City of London||193%|
|Redcar and Cleveland||101%|
|Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole||100%|
|Kingston upon Thames||67%|
|Blackburn with Darwen||64%|
|Barking and Dagenham||50%|
|Bath and North East Somerset||50%|
|Telford and Wrekin||25%|
|Newcastle upon Tyne||10%|
|Brighton and Hove||0%|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||0%|
|Bristol, City of||-20%|
|Kensington and Chelsea||-25%|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||-33%|
|Herefordshire, County of||-35%|
|Cheshire West and Chester||-44%|
|Cornwall and Isles of Scilly||-57%|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||-63%|
|Isle of Wight||N/A|
|North East Lincolnshire||N/A|