Coronavirus data questioned amid fears Bedford’s R-rate exceeds one


Bedford’s mayor is worried the borough’s crucial R-rate might have gone above the critical level needed to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Having an R-rate below one means covid-19 is on the way to being wiped out, a rate above one means it risks running out of control.

That’s because each person with the disease gives the infection to more than one other person.

Referring to publicly available date on the infection rate, mayor Dave Hodgson said he found it “worrying” at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s health and wellbeing board.

Read: Bedford Borough has highest coronavirus infection rate in East of England

“I have had discussions with Public Health England but they give no specific reason why Bedford is out of kilter with the rest of the region,” he said.

“I have been asking for the data for three weeks, and we need it for the opening of schools and shops but we don’t have a local figure.

“We might have an R number that is above one,” he said. “I really worry about the quality of the data.”

Figures on the Government’s website at 4.40pm on Wednesday (10 Jun) showed there were 703 cases of infection in the borough.

That gives it a rate of 409.6 per 100,000 population, an increase of 50 since June 4 but the website does not say why.

Read: Coronavirus: latest confirmed cases in Bedford Borough

Muriel Scott, the borough’s director of public health said, “It has been difficult to get the data to inform decision making.”

Councils have been put on alert to prepare plans for how they would cope with localised coronavirus outbreaks.

Muriel Scott’s report added, “Although it is difficult to quantify clearly, Test and Trace is likely to require significant level of resource from across the council, with potential implications for other business as usual activities.”

The mayor says the council was alerted on 22 May that it would need to have a plan.

“I have been promised in three briefings that more details will follow shortly,” he said.

“It gives us three weeks of waiting for guidance then two weeks to put it in place,” he said. They are aiming to have a plan in place before the end of June.

He added that council officers are, “Trying to put together our best guess. We still don’t know whether it might mean locking down a street, a town, a borough, or a country.

“We need to know now. We are told it could be postcode-based, but what that means we don’t know.

“Data quality and lack of early guidance doesn’t help us on the ground.”

But Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), the council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing said the borough was in a better place than “a lot of areas to know what to do when the guidance comes through.”

He concern was that “words being used are changing all time.”

“Isolate is so important,” she said. “If people aren’t going to isolate with the illness it’s pointless.

“It’s a really, really important part. If that does not happen it will be difficult to get things under control.”

By Local Democracy Reporter, David Tooley

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