News, Culture & Society

Is YOUR town at risk of a local lockdown?

Health bosses have today released an interactive map breaking down new coronavirus cases by postcode in an effort to keep a lid on local outbreaks.

The map of England, which will be updated each week, paints a clear picture showing the Covid-19 crisis in cities, towns and even small villages being hit hard by the virus.

Data showed Colwall, Cradley and Wellington Heath in Hertfordshire was the worst-hit place in England last week, recording 68 new cases between July 6 and 12.

The area is home to vegetable producer A S Green and Co, a farm on the outskirts of Malvern which was locked down because of an outbreak. Ninety-three crop-pickers have now tested positive for the infection.

And Department of Health data revealed the next four worst-hit middle super output areas — small geographical areas used for statistics — were all in Leicester.

It comes as Matt Hancock today declared Leicester must remain in lockdown except for its schools and nurseries, which will be allowed to reopen from next Friday, July 24.

The city has now been under stricter rules than the rest of England for two weeks and it must mostly remain so for another fortnight, the Health Secretary announced in an urgent statement to the House of Commons.

He said the coronavirus infection rate in the city is still too high for lockdown to be lifted, claiming it has dropped to 119 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week.

Mr Hancock revealed Leicester will stay sealed off and the city’s 330,000 residents must still avoid non-essential travel out of the area, stick rigorously to social distancing rules and not enter other people’s homes.  

In other coronavirus developments in Britain today:  

  • The UK, US and Canada accused Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research by sanctioning ‘despicable’ cyber attacks against medical organisations and universities; 
  • Britain announced just 66 more coronavirus deaths — meaning the daily average number of fatalities has now dropped to the lowest level since March;
  • NHS Test and Trace is still failing to find a more than a fifth of patients who test positive for Covid-19 — despite launching almost two months ago; 
  • The number of people on the payroll has plunged by 650,000 since UK’s coronavirus chaos erupted as shock data revealed 2.6million are now on benefits; 
  • Figures revealed the stark divide between the fortunes of the public and private sectors, with public sector pay surging during the crisis but incomes plunging for private workers; 
  • Pharmacists will be able to give out Covid-19 jabs to speed up a nation-wide roll out when one is eventually approved, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed.

Pressure had been mounting on the Government to be more transparent about rolling Covid-19 data in local areas, to prevent other towns and cities being hit by local lockdowns.

It was accused of not sharing the data quickly enough with public health officials in Leicester, which was forced to revert to lockdown on June after a spike in cases. 

The public are able to access the interactive map themselves to gain insight into Covid-19 cases near their home. But it is not possible to identify individuals by name and address.

Local public health bosses in each region will also be given positive test data and contact tracing figures each day after mounting pressure on officials to provide more data intelligence.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has been fiercely critical of the ‘blanket’ restrictions placed on the whole city — which still has the highest infection rate in the country.

He believes locking down specific neighbourhoods in the city which are particularly badly-hit by Covid would be a less economically crippling way to tackle the disease. 

Meanwhile, the council of Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire has limited visits to one household and two members from a separate household, over fears a local lockdown like that of Leicester is becoming a ‘real possibility’.

Residents in Blackburn, Darwen and Pendle have also been asked to wear face masks inside to prevent a local lockdown, as infections spread amongst those living in crowded housing environments.  

The map of England, which will be updated each week, paints a clear picture showing the Covid-19 crisis in cities, towns and even small villages being hit hard by the virus

Meanwhile in Blackburn with Darwen, feared to be the second place in England to be hit with a local lockdown, a staggering 85 per cent of new Covid-19 infections are among its South Asian population, a local health chief revealed yesterday.

That’s despite the South Asian community only accounting for 30 per cent of the council’s 150,000 population. 

For the next month, only two people from the same family will be allowed to visit another household indoors in the Lancashire authority and everyone must wear face masks in any enclosed public space. This differs from the national guidance, which says two households of any size can meet inside.

People are also being urged not to hug anyone from outside their own household and to get regularly tested at new mobile centres as part of the measures to avoid a Leicester-style lockdown, which council bosses say is a ‘very real’ threat.

It comes as new NHS Test and Trace data for England shows the system is still failing to reach targets — despite the system launching almost two months ago.

More than a fifth of patients who test positive for Covid-19 are not being tracked down, shocking figures show.

Of the 3,579 Covid-19 patients in England referred to the contact tracing programme between July 2 and July 8, just 2,815 were actually tracked down (78.7 per cent).

A total of 618 people with the disease could not be reached at all by the tracers — who phone, text and email someone up to 10 times a day to get hold of them.

And communication details were not provided for another 146 Covid-19 patients, so their close contacts will have also slipped under the radar.

Scientists have warned contact tracing programmes need to catch at least 80 per cent of infections to keep the outbreak under control.

On top of this, people are still not receiving their Covid-19 test results within 24 hours, considered vital to keep the tracing system up to speed.

The proportion getting results from a so-called ‘in-person’ test — at a mobile testing site for example — has fallen week-on-week.

Some 87.7 per cent of people received the result within 24 hours in the week ending July 8, down slightly from 90.7 per cent in the week ending July 1.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month pledged to get the results of all in-person tests back within 24 hours by the end of June.

He told the House of Commons on June 3 he would get ‘all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that’. 

Turnaround times for home tests are not as fast because people post their kits back at their own leisure.

Some 3.3 per cent of people who took a Covid-19 test using a home test kit in the week ending July 8 received their result within 24 hours – up slightly on the previous week (1.8 per cent).