Two new towns ‘areas of intervention’ over rising coronavirus levels

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Public Health England has announced that two UK towns are now ‘areas of intervention’ over coronavirus levels.

The announcement came as the health authority declare that cases in Luton, in Bedfordshire, and Blackburn and Darwen, in Lancashire, have increased.

They are now both at the same level as Leicester and the city’s neighbouring Oadby and Wigston, which were subject to the UK’s first full local lockdown.

In Blackburn with Darwen, the rate has jumped from 48.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 12 to 79.9 in the seven days to July 19, with 119 new cases recorded.

Luton had not previously been on PHE’s watchlist, although officials had noted an increase in COVID-19 cases in the area.

However, a government source told the Mirror that a Leicester-style local lockdown was unlikely at this point.

Both areas are expected to freeze any further relaxation of restrictions, such as reopening gyms and leisure centres, rather than shutting down pubs and restaurants.

The source said: “Cases have been shooting up but it is not at Leicester levels. Authorities in both areas have been great, they have really been on top of it.

“We are not sitting in Westminster saying, “do this, do that”. We have a lot of confidence in them.”

It is understood that both areas are likely to get ramped up testing facilities to help curb the spread of the virus.

Cllr Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council added: “We are very grateful to our communities for working with us.

“The increase in testing is helping to ensure that we are heading in the right direction with a reduction in positive cases and hospital admissions.

“We need to keep up the momentum with our strong prevention work so we agree its sensible not to relax the easing of restrictions at the moment to stop the spread.

“We have already decided to delay the opening of our council leisure facilities along with introducing other localised prevention measures.

“We feel that accelerating our control measures in this way will assist us to move out of having higher COVID rates even faster- we are grateful for the Government’s help in our local plans on this.”

Public Health England said the following local authorities have been included on a watchlist based on a range of indicators and an assessment of local response and plans.

The areas on the watchlist for the period between July 13 and July 19 were; Leicester, Oadby and Wigston, Blackburn with Darwen, Luton, Pendle, Bradford, Rochdale, Kirklees, Peterborough, Wakefield, Northampton, Calderdale and Rotherham.

PHE has said ‘area of interventions’ are applied to areas where the spread is significant enough to require a new action plan and maybe extra resources from NHS England or the government. 

In a statement on the latest covid watchlist, the PHE said: “At a local authority level, activity was highest in Blackburn and Darwen where incidence has continued to increase.

“Activity in Leicester continued to decrease. Case detections are highest in adults aged 85 and over.

“There has been an increase in the proportion of cases from the Asian/Asian British ethnic group, this is likely to reflect larger populations from this ethnic group in areas that are currently seeing higher incidence.”

As coronavirus cases spike in some parts of England, there are almost 20 areas where the rolling seven-day rate of new confirmed infections is zero.

They include Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, North and West Devon, the Isle of Wight, Scarborough in North Yorkshire, and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

Some of those places have had a rolling Covid-19 infection rate of 0.0 for multiple weeks, while others saw their rate drop to zero from as high as 6.3 in the seven days up to July 19.

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