Working women at centre of Bedford’s high coronavirus infection rate report

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coronavirus testing

A ‘deep dive’ investigation into Bedford’s coronavirus pandemic is showing there are higher rates of infection in working age women.

A Council meeting yesterday (Thursday) looked at the draft report which is due to be sent to Bedford Council on Monday before being published a week later.

Christine McHugh (Lib Dem, Goldington), is the councillor responsible for social care resilience.

“What the deep dive and the testing data has shown, interestingly, is that Bedford is flagging up a lot of women of working age who are being infected,” she said.

“Obviously we can only guess why. These are women of working age, so are they mums going to school?

“Are they people working in the supermarkets? Are they cleaning? Are they carers?”

Working age men are also being picked up in the data but to a lesser extent.

“So really our messages should probably be focused at this point at working aged people,” said Cllr McHugh.

“And they are the people out and about, maybe on the buses, maybe they nip into several shops when they are out and touch lots of things.”

Despite national lock down measures being relaxed from tomorrow (4 July), the council’s local outbreak engagement board still recommended:

  • People should remember to wash their hands
  • stay at home as much as possible
  • keep two-meters apart
  • and wear masks when inside public buildings or on public transport

Cllr McHugh said: “Don’t be afraid, don’t live in fear but just take those precautions that we had got used to taking and maybe now we’ve got a bit lax.”

Read: Customer safety “top priority” as Bedford pubs reopen tomorrow

Play Parks Closed
While pubs might be opening, Bedford’s play parks will remain closed for at least another week.

Public health chiefs at the council hope to stop a damaging Leicester-style lockdown in Bedford.

And they believe they are in a better position than the East Midlands city because they remain sceptical about data.

Cllr Louise Jackson (Labour), portfolio holder for public health & wellbeing, also highlighted the Government hadn’t told Deloitte, who are recording pillar 2 data, to pass the data to local authorities.

She said “[This] data was crucial to successful implementation of the local outbreak control plan.”

The council is now starting to get information down to postcode level, which will allow them to swoop on problem patches.

The Lib Dem mayor said the council has beefed up its environmental health team from four to 10. They have the power to close workplaces.

The council hopes by stamping on the coronavirus before it has a chance to infect more people they will prevent a lockdown.

Hysteria in rural areas

Wendy Rider (Lib Dem, Brickhill) the councillor in charge of adult services asked for talks with bus companies because customers are travelling without masks.

And Tory group leader Cllr Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) appealed for people to act responsibly at the weekend when pubs re-open.

“We want to get the businesses up and running but it will be to no avail if we get a second spike,” he said.

Cllr Doug McMurdo (Ind, Sharnbrook) who is responsible for the council’s leisure and culture portfolio spoke of a “bit of hysteria in rural area in regard to the fear of a lockdown.”

The mayor said the council will be monitoring Leicester over the weekend to see if people drive out to villages.

Looking ahead to the impact of the pandemic on Bedford Borough, Cllrs McHugh and Jackson flagged the need for a comprehensive support package from Central government.

“This needs to support the hospitality industry, theatres and live music venues, particularly the latter as they won’t be able to open,” they said.

by Paul Hutchinson, Bedford Independent
and David Tooley, 
Local Democracy Reporter

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