Bedford Borough has the highest Upper Tier Local Authority coronavirus infection rate in the East of England, with 399 (as at 5 June) per 100,000 people confirmed as having contracted COVID-19.
With a total of 685 confirmed cases across Bedford Borough and 180 deaths recorded at Bedford Hospital NHS Trust (as at 6 June), there are concerns relaxing lockdown rules will push this rate up further.
Admissions to Bedford Hospital rose in the weeks following VE Day celebrations, suggesting communities socialising during that weekend may have unwittingly spread the virus.
As more businesses reopen, members of the public have been reminded to stay at home where possible, maintain social distancing when out, and to wash their hands regularly.
Bedford Borough Council say they are working with NHS and other public sector services to support the government’s ‘Test and Trace’ initiative
“With the rate of infection in Bedford remaining high compared to other areas in the East of England we are asking everyone to stay home wherever possible,” said Cllr Louise Jackson, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing.
“…keep your distance if you go out and to continue to wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds, especially if you’ve been out.”
How Bedford compares
- The second highest Upper Tier Local Authority rate in the region is Norfolk with 243 cases per 100,000*.
- Rutland is the lowest in the region, and the country, with 88 cases per 100,000.
- The average rate across the East of England is 233 per 100,000
- The average rate across Bedfordshire is 310 per 100,000
- The average rate across England is 275 per 100,000
*If taking Lower Tier Local Authorities into consideration, Kings Lynne and West Norfolk record a higher rate of 446 per 100,000 people. However, even at this level, Bedford still has the second highest rate in the region.
Bedford’s high infection rate is being attributed to the number of multi-generational households, areas of deprivation and the large number of care homes in the Borough.
“Hastily taking us out of the lockdown without a coherent plan and ongoing problems with testing whilst the UK still has one of the highest infection rates in the world is a huge risk for the Government to take,” said Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston.
“I am concerned that the decision to allow primary school children to return at the same time as relaxing other lockdown measures is blueprint for a second wave.
The Government’s decision on Sunday night (31 May) to lift shielding restrictions for 2.2 million people, without advance notice for GPs, has also been called into question.
But in the daily coronavirus press briefing yesterday (5 June), the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the government were not “cherrypicking” data to justify easing restrictions.
“It’s very important that you look at all of these studies in the round,” he said. “The overall assessment that is brought together by Sage that advises the chief medical officer is the one that I look at.”
“The overall view of Sage is that the R [number] is between 0.7 and 0.9 and it is higher in the southwest of England and the northwest but it remains below one in each area.”
He added that the government was also interested in tackling spikes in infection rates with local lockdowns instead of nationwide action.
“It’s clear the Government has lost control of its own public health message, putting even more lives at risk,” argued Bedford’s MP, Mr Yasin.
But he repeated the Government’s main message urging “everyone to stay vigilant,” and that “we must not be complacent”.
He added, “The last thing any of us want is for the hardships and sacrifices we have all made over the last few months, in order to protect the NHS and save lives, to have been in vain.”
The Independent also reported the Office for National Statistics said there were about 5,600 new infections a day in England. This is down from 8,000 last week.
Based on swab results from households across the country, figures on how many people have coronavirus at any one time, showed an estimated 39,000 new infections per week in England between 26 April and 30 May.
Coronavirus symptoms include a new persistent cough, high temperature or a change or loss of taste or smell.
Anyone who develops these should immediately self-isolate. and arrange a test via the NHS’ dedicated coronavirus website or by calling 111.
The worst affected Upper Tier Local Authority in the UK is Sunderland with a rate of 498 cases in 100,000 people.