UK

Coronavirus: Bristol ONLY one of England’s top 50 hotspots in south

Only one place in England’s top 50 coronavirus hotspots is in the south, according to official statistics that lay bare the country’s north-south Covid divide. 

Bristol has the 37th highest coronavirus infection rate out of 317 authorities in England, with officials diagnosing 410 cases for every 100,000 people in the week ending November 6.  

But the city’s outbreak is still only half the size of Oldham’s, which is currently the country’s worst-hit area with around 779 new cases for every 100,000 residents in the most recent full week of data. 

Bristol, which is home to 463,400 people, was under ‘Tier 1+’ restrictions before the second national lockdown came into force last week. It involved hiring eight ‘Covid marshals’ to encourage compliance with rules, and a drive to contain infections in older adults.

Department of Health statistics also show no London borough is among the worst-hit 100 places, with Havering coming in at 106th place with 252 cases per 100,000. 

The figures cast more doubt on whether a nation-wide lockdown was needed to stem sky-high infection rates in the north. 

But some academics argue that although infection rates in the south are not the highest, they are growing the quickest, and so intervention was needed quickly to prevent escalation. 

Many northern authorities have actually seen cases drop in recent weeks, including Liverpool, Nottingham and Manchester. Experts have insisted it is proof the Tier 2 and 3 restrictions, predominantly introduced in the north, were working before the system was binned for a blanket shutdown.

Bristol is the only place in England’s top 50 coronavirus hotspots in the South. The southwest city, home to 463,400 people, diagnosed 410 cases per 100,000 in the week to November 6, almost half that of Oldham, which takes the top spot with 779 cases per 100,000

Government data shows the seven-day average has stabilised from the last week of October onwards. Some 280 people are being diagnosed per day, on average. Pictured: Number of people with at least one positive Covid-19 test result by specimen date. The most recent days' data is likely to be revised. Cases are shown as very low in the first wave due to lower testing capacity

Government data shows the seven-day average has stabilised from the last week of October onwards. Some 280 people are being diagnosed per day, on average. Pictured: Number of people with at least one positive Covid-19 test result by specimen date. The most recent days’ data is likely to be revised. Cases are shown as very low in the first wave due to lower testing capacity 

Number of people with a Covid-19 test result in rolling seven day periods. The data shows a spike from late September onwards, with appears to have plateaued. Cases are shown as very low in the first wave due to lower testing capacity

Number of people with a Covid-19 test result in rolling seven day periods. The data shows a spike from late September onwards, with appears to have plateaued. Cases are shown as very low in the first wave due to lower testing capacity

Around 10million people were living under the toughest Tier 3 bracket before England’s second lockdown was imposed — but all of the affected areas were in the north and the Midlands. 

Among the set of Tier 3 measures were a ban on people mixing with friends and family indoors or in a private garden, and a closure of hospitality venues unless they served a substantial meal. 

Most parts of Essex and the whole of London were shifted up into Tier 2 as to avoid later being slapped with the strictest restrictions. In Tier 2, people could meet in groups of six but only outdoors. 

Oldham currently has the highest infection rate per 100,000 people (779.4), followed by Blackburn with Darwen (726.1), Kingston upon Hull (630.9) and Wigan (626.8). 

CALLS FOR ‘LEVELLING UP’ IN THE NORTH WHICH HAS BEEN HARDEST HIT BY COVID-19 

The North has been hit harder than the rest of England during the pandemic, increasing the levels of inequality in the country, according to a study.

Even after factoring in deprivation, ethnicity and the age structure of the population, the mortality rate in the Northern Powerhouse region was worse than elsewhere.

The report, compiled by the Northern Health Science Alliance and other organisations, included a list of 12 recommendations to ‘level-up’ the country, including renewed efforts to tackle child poverty.

The study put a conservative estimate on the economic cost of the increased mortality in the North at £6.86 billion. It also estimated that the pandemic’s impact on the region’s mental health would cost around £5 billion a year.

The report led by scientists from the universities of Newcastle, Manchester, York and Liverpool found 57.7 more people per 100,000 died in the Northern Powerhouse than the rest of England between March and July.

They also said that since the pandemic, adverse trends in poverty, education, employment and mental health for children and young people have worsened.

Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, said: ‘Our report highlights that we are not all in the pandemic together with the Northern regions being hardest hit.

‘Health and wealth in the Northern Powerhouse lagged behind the rest of the country even before the Covid pandemic, and over the last year our significant regional inequalities have been exacerbated.’

Hannah Davies, of the Northern Health Science Alliance, said: ‘Health inequalities between the North and the rest of England have been growing for over a decade.

‘This report demonstrates the impact that has had on the productivity of the region and how it has led Covid-19 to take a devastating grip on the North.’

On the opposite end of the scale are Hastings (31.3), Rother (52) and Wealden (55.1) — all along the south coast — North Norfolk (46.7) and East Cambridgeshire (55.7).  

Bristol diagnosed 1,900 new coronavirus cases in the most recent week.

Around the same number of cases have been diagnosed at the University of Bristol alone since students returned in September.

Its website says 22 university students are being diagnosed every day, on average, which has halved since the end of October. The university is attended by around 28,000 students in total.  

Bristol was officially under Tier 1 before the lockdown on November 5. But local authorities announced the city was moving into its own ‘Tier 1 plus’ on October 28, due to a spike in cases.

The new restrictions meant the council was taking more local control over test and trace to contact people not reached by the national system. It also said it was targeting work on adults between the ages of 30 and 60, where the coronavirus was spreading most, and employing eight ‘Covid marshals’.

The approach was developed locally and the Department of Health said the use of a ‘plus’ level in tiers was not directed from the top.

The Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has previously said the city is likely to move to tier Tier 2 when the four week lockdown ends, meaning households will continue to be banned from mixing indoors. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK will return to the three-tier system after December 2 with a preferred localised approach to tackling outbreaks.

But Professor Chris Whitty said the strategy may need to be revamped, suggesting yet another system would need to be designed to keep cases from rising again.

Bristol’s infection rate has shown signs of improvement, sliding down the table of worst-hit areas from 24th place in the seven days up to November 4, according to Bristol Live. 

Government data shows the seven-day average in the city has stabilised from the last week of October onwards. Some 280 people are being diagnosed per day, on average.  

Some parts of the city are seeing cases continue to climb, however; Frenchay has the city’s highest infection rate (759.4) followed by Barton Hill (743.7).

Bristol’s neighbours are seeing far lower infection rates — 301.3 cases per 100,000 in South Gloucestershire, 216.8 in Bath and North East Somerset, and 227.9 in North Somerset. 

After Bristol and South Gloucestershire (82nd place), a southern location of England does not appear in the list until Havering, which is 106th place.

The East London borough has a case rate of 252.4 cases per 100,000. Redbridge currently has the second highest rate in London, with 230, followed by Ealing with 209.5. 

Mayor Sadiq Khan repeatedly called for more restrictions in the capital despite its infection rate being significantly lower than the coronavirus hotspots in the north.

It was moved into Tier 2 on October 16, but a number of leaders in boroughs with lower infection rates, mostly in the south of the city, argued against the harsh measures.

While London initially took the brunt of the first Covid-19 wave in the spring, it was northern England that faced a bad second wave.

The possible reasons for the ‘north-south divide’ are far reaching, with some scientists arguing that London gained some level of immunity from the outbreak in the spring.

The notion of ‘herd immunity’ is fiercely contested, however, with a number of top officials saying there is no proof a population can be protected after a large proportion is infected.

But studies, including Government-funded ones, do show London has the highest level of antibodies – proteins in the blood which signal prior infection. Experts believe they will prevent people from suffering another bout of the illness, if they catch the coronavirus again within six months.  

In the most recent Public Health England surveillance report, data showed that 26 boroughs of London’s 32 saw infection rates fall in the week to November 1. It dropped the most significantly in Kensington and Chelsea, by 28 per cent. 

It’s led to pressure to take the capital out of lockdown early, with former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers calling it ‘the powerhouse of the UK economy’.

Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across more local authorities, the Health Secretary claimed today. They are primarily in the North West, North East and Midlands, with some around Essex and London

Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across more local authorities, the Health Secretary claimed today. They are primarily in the North West, North East and Midlands, with some around Essex and London

MASS CORONAVIRUS TESTING TO BE ROLLED OUT ACROSS UK 

Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across in nearly 70 more local authorities, the Health Secretary claimed today.

Matt Hancock revealed areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands will receive the rapid Covid-19 tests. London, Birmingham, Manchester and Coventry are also among the cities to get a batch of tests.

At least 600,000 lateral flow tests will be sent out across the UK this week to kick-start the next stage of mass coronavirus testing, which ministers hope could finally send the virus packing.

The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus – even if they have no symptoms – and the technology can give results within an hour.   

Every resident in Liverpool has been able to get tested for the disease since Friday, when the major army-backed scheme was first launched. The city, home to 500,000 people, was the first to be involved with No10’s ambitious ‘Operation Moonshot’ — a mission to screen millions of asymptomatic people every day. 

She told the Evening Standard: ‘We need to get it open again as soon as possible.

‘With cases coming down in many boroughs, there is no justification for extending lockdown a minute beyond its scheduled end date on December 2.

‘Ministers must also seriously consider whether London can be released from lockdown early if cases continue to fall.’

But the comments are bound to anger northern leaders such as Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry, who have previously hit out at the tiered system as being ‘London-centric’. 

Liverpool’s Labour mayor Steve Rotheram also said ministers were treating the North like a ‘petri dish for experimentation’ while the South gets off lightly.  

MailOnline’s analysis of the PHE statistics last Friday showed swathes of authorities in the north, under the most restrictive Covid-19 measures, have seen infection rates fall recently.  

Liverpool and Lancashire infections declined by more than ten per cent.

Meanwhile, a handful of authorities saw rises above 40 per cent, including Medway, in Kent, and Swindon in the South West.

Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, told MailOnline the data suggested the tiered system, particularly in the north, was working. 

But rises in the south suggested further action was needed, even if the infection rates were lower, because they were increasing quicker. 

Overall more than half of local authorities scattered across England saw their infection rates fall at the end of October. 

Amid data that shows the country was beginning to fight back the coronavirus, Boris Johnson is said to be furious he was ‘bounced’ into imposing a second national lockdown on October 31, after repeatedly vowing to stick to a localised approach.

A Cabinet ally said this week the Prime Minister reluctantly signed off a new lockdown in England after being warned by Government scientists that deaths could rise to 4,000 a day – four times the peak seen in April.

The decision was rushed out with minimal Cabinet consultation after news of the warning, and the PM’s reaction to it, was leaked to news organisations, including the Daily Mail. 

The 4,000-a-day figure has since been widely discredited and Government scientists have been forced to correct other dire warnings used to inform the lockdown decision. 

Mr Johnson is said to be angry that the stats are ‘crumbling’, according to the Government minister. The source told the Daily Mail: ‘I think he is concerned that he may have been bounced into it.

‘He was really, really cross about the leak because at that point a different decision might still have been made. There is also concern that some of the information used to inform the decision now seems to be crumbling.

‘In fact the figures seem to be suggesting things were getting better before the lockdown began – we are being shut down for a month when we did not need to be.’

Tory MPs seized on the claim to demand an early end to the draconian restrictions.

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told MailOnline that carrying out a U-turn should not be a problem, given recent rethinks on free school meals and other issues.

‘We’ve not shown any reluctance to just reverse decisions that we thought were wrong in the recent past,’ the MP said.

‘If we think that the wrong decision has been made then clearly it should be reversed as soon as possible. The less damage done the better. No point in hanging on for the full month just to maximise the pain.

‘Particularly when all the signs are starting to show that actually according to the data we have already turned the corner.’

Another senior MP warned that calls for a shortening would become irresistible if the trend in infections continued.

‘One thing is certain, and that’s if the decline continues the government should be looking at relaxing the restrictions earlier than December 2,’ they said.

‘The economy cannot remain frozen like this.’ 


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