Only eight of England’s 50 areas worst-hit by coronavirus are in the South, according to official data that lays bare the country’s North-South divide amid the growing threat of more ‘local lockdowns’.
Leicester — the first city in UK to be struck by further Covid-controlling measures — has the worst infection rate in the country, with 140.2 cases confirmed between June 15-21 for every 100,000 people. It is followed by a cluster in the North West of England, with Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale all recording at least 50 coronavirus infections for every 100,000 people in the same seven-day spell.
Analysis of the Public Health England data shows they aren’t the only places in the North to be rocked by flare-ups of the disease, which has claimed at least 55,000 lives across the whole of the UK.
Only eight authorities in the South of England — Bedford (42), Luton (26.6), Central Bedfordshire (15.9), Kent (13.5), Slough (13.4), Thurrock (12.2), Milton Keynes (10.8) and Swindon (10.4) — are currently in the 50 worst-hit areas.
In comparison, just six authorities at the bottom of the table are in the North or the Midlands — South Tyneside (0), Redcar and Cleveland (0.7), Sunderland (1.8), North East Lincolnshire (1.9), Rutland (2.5) and Northumberland.
One of the main causes of the ‘North-South’ divide in coronavirus cases in England is down to the disparity in job roles, experts believe — pointing to figures showing London is recovering quicker than most regions.
Scientists say infections may have dropped at a faster rate in the capital because there are more white collar jobs there, therefore more employees were able to work from home and isolate from others. In deprived areas people are more likely to have to go to work and use public transport — raising their risk of being infected.
Government sources say Leicester-style shutdowns could be ‘just days away’ for other places ahead of the biggest step back to normal life with Brits set to flock to the pubs to celebrate ‘Super Saturday’.
Only eight authorities in the south of England — Bedford (42), Luton (26.6), Central Bedfordshire (15.9), Kent (13.5), Slough (13.4), Thurrock (12.2), Milton Keynes (10.8) and Swindon (10.4) — are currently in the 50 worst-hit areas. In comparison, just six authorities at the bottom of the table are in the north or the Midlands — South Tyneside (0), Redcar and Cleveland (0.7), Sunderland (1.8), North East Lincolnshire (1.9), Rutland (2.5) and Northumberland
WHICH AREAS OF LONDON HAVE THE HIGHEST INFECTION RATES?
London, once the epicentre of Britain’s coronavirus outbreak, now has some of the lowest infection rates in the country, according to Public Health England data.
Kensington & Chelsea, a rich area in the west of the capital, now has the highest infection rate with 7.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to data from June 15-21.
This is the highest in London but pales in comparison to the rate of infection in England’s new hotspot – Leicester – where there are 140 cases per 100,000.
Next after Kensington is Hounslow, with 7.4 cases per 100,000, and Hammersmith and Fulham with 5.9 – all are in the west end of the city.
The others in the top 10 are Waltham Forest (5.4), Brent (5.1), Westminster (5.1), Bexley (4.5), Merton (4.4), Ealing (4.1) and Redbridge (3.6).
At the other end of the scale, areas with two or fewer cases per 100,000 people include Lewisham, Sutton, Havering, Camden, Harrow, Croydon, Barking & Dagenham, Kingston, Richmond, Lambeth, and the City of London where there have been 0 cases per 100,000.
|Kensington and Chelsea||7.7||Newham||3.4||Lewisham||2|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||5.9||Islington||2.9||Havering||1.9|
|Waltham Forest||5.4||Tower Hamlets||2.8||Camden||1.9|
|Bexley||4.5||Hillingdon||2.6||Barking and Dagenham||1.4|
|Merton||4.4||Haringey||2.6||Kingston upon Thames||1.1|
|Ealing||4.1||Hackney||2.5||Richmond upon Thames||1|
|Southwark||3.5||Bromley||2.1||City of London||0|
Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week confirmed lockdown measures will be extended in Leicester for at least two weeks, after a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
Pubs in the city are not be allowed to be reopen this weekend to celebrate ‘Super Saturday’, nor are its residents allowed to visit friends and relatives — unlike everywhere else in the country.
Figures show Leicester — whose infection rate was twice as high as the next worst-hit authority — reported 944 coronavirus cases in the two weeks up to June 23.
Government officials, politicians and scientists are divided over whether Leicester is experiencing a real surge in cases or whether more cases have identified because testing has been improved.
And whether the data in each authority is made up of testing in hospitals (severe Covid-19 cases), or drive-thru centres and home test kits (mostly key workers, possibly with mild cases) is unclear.
But a tightening on lockdown like that seen in Leicester — with the closure of non-essential shops and schools again — can’t be ruled out for other towns in England.
Recent government data shows the areas suffering higher numbers of new cases are typically in the Midlands or the North, and those faring the best are in the South.
‘On this data, there is clearly a North/South divide here and the important thing to consider is why,’ Joshua Moon, a research fellow in science policy at the University of Sussex, told MailOnline.
‘There was a frequent phrase being used early in the epidemic that the virus was “a great leveller” because the virus infects you regardless of your socioeconomic status.
‘These local lockdowns are going to show just how false that claim is by hitting the most important and hardest hit communities first be they North/South, black/white, rich/poor.’
Evidence has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic to show those who live in the poorest parts of England and Wales are dying more than those in affluent areas.
And black and Asian people are more likely to both catch the coronavirus and die from it than white people, which is only partly explained by genetic differences, public health officials say.
Other reasons for the disparity include housing conditions, public-facing occupations such as health care workers and structural racism, according to Public Health England.
And a higher prevalence of underlying health conditions can be partly blamed for a higher risk of catching Covid-19 in BAME people.
For example, black people are statistically more likely to be overweight than white people, while both Asian and black populations have been found to have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.
This can help in part explain why some parts of England have suffered far worse than others during the pandemic, which first began in China in December but quickly spread to strike every corner of the planet.
A number of factors impact infection rates in each area and are likely to drive outbreaks, including demographics in terms of ethnicity, household structures, and movement.
Looking at ethnicity specifically in the worst-hit areas, almost half of Leicester’s population is of Asian heritage or from black backgrounds.
In the east of Leicester, where the outbreak is at its worst, up to two-thirds of residents are BAME compared with 13.8 per cent in the UK broadly. Forty per cent of London’s population is of a BAME background.
In comparison, the 2011 Census shows that when compared nationally, there is a significantly lower proportion of people in West Berkshire who define themselves as coming from a BAME background – just five per cent.
West Berkshire, 50 miles (80km) from London, hasn’t found any new Covid-19 cases recently, followed closely by Gloucestershire, Wokingham and Cornwall.
LEADERS OF COUNCILS THREATENED BY LEICESTER-STYLE LOCKDOWNS REJECT THE IDEA
Council leaders in areas threatened by Leicester-style lockdowns have rejected the idea – while claiming figures released by the Government detailing the highest coronavirus infection rates are out-of-date.
Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale were identified as three of the areas of England most at risk of being hit by a ‘local lockdown’ like the one imposed in Leicester to control Covid-19, according to Public Health England data.
Statistics for the week ending June 21 — the most recently available — show those areas had the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the country, each with more than 50 positive tests per 100,000 people. Only Leicester recorded more (140.2).
But leaders in the worst-affected areas have asserted they can see no reason to subject their regions to similar restrictions, while complaining the data released by Public Health England on its website was out of date.
Figures seen by the Daily Telegraph supported their claims that infection rates in these badly-hit locations had dropped in the seven days to June 27.
According to this data, the number of positive cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people fell from 53.8 to 34.7 in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
Council leader Sir Stephen Houghton said authorities ‘don’t believe we need additional restrictions like Leicester’, which was subject to extended lockdown measures on Monday.
‘We need to monitor the situation, particularly with restrictions being eased this weekend, and for that we need more granular detail of the location of test results,’ he said, adding PHE should make detailed information about the locations of outbreaks more readily available.
Barnsley Council had moved to squash rumours of a local lockdown there as Public Health England (PHE) data emerged showing its high infection rate on Wednesday. Town leaders called for ‘extra care and vigilance’, Sky News reported, but denied measures like those seen in Leicester will be necessary.
South Tyneside, the only Northern authority to report zero new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 in the week to June 21, is also more than 95 per cent white.
It’s cumulative coronavirus case toll — the second highest in England followed by Sunderland — can be explained by other factors, experts say, including an ageing population and the fact the North East is a largely industrial area.
One of the main causes of the ‘North-South’ divide in coronavirus cases in England is down to the disparity in job roles, experts believe.
Mr Moon said: ‘Locations with the highest transmission are also locations that likely have higher numbers of individuals with jobs that can’t be done remotely, or that have a high reliance on public transport rather than personal transportation, or that have higher proportions of key workers in logistics or transport.
‘What is concerning is that local lockdowns mean that there are going to be economic consequences in areas that were already hardest hit by the financial crisis.’
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘In deprived areas people are more likely to have to go to work, less likely to be able to work from home, and more likely to use public transport.
‘They can’t distance themselves from others. Factories and manufacturing work are opportunities to mix and mixing is what it’s all about. You wouldn’t put a food processing factory in London because it’s too expensive.’
Food processing factories have shown to have a higher transmission risk because of the cold environments, with outbreaks recorded at plants in Anglesey, Wrexham and West Yorkshire.
Infectious disease experts also say the working conditions may increase the risk, because workers must talk louder over machinery or have coffee breaks together.
Experts say infections may have dropped at a faster rate in London because there are more white collar jobs there, therefore more employees were able to work from home and isolate from others.
Various boroughs of the capital are reporting very few cases, including the City of London which recorded zero coronavirus cases per 100,000 population.
There are clearly high rates of poverty in places like inner London, but these areas have relatively younger populations, and young people are less likely to have high rates of severe Covid19 infections on average.
Hospitals in the Midlands have been the worst affected outside of London, NHS England data shows, with 5,707 deaths by yesterday, compared to 6,090 in the capital
‘LEICESTER LEPERS’ ARE BANNED FROM HOLIDAY PARKS, CAMPSITES AND HOTELS
Local child-protection worker, Tracy Jebbet (pictured with her family), revealed her upcoming holiday to Cornwall had just been cancelled
Concerns of a ‘leper’ effect have emerged today after tourist destinations said they would turn away visitors from Leicester.
Pentewan Sands holiday park near St Austell, Cornwall, said on Facebook it was no longer open to visitors from the East Midlands city.
There have also been concerns in destinations near Leicester, with health officials in Skegness saying they are worried about the prospect of visitors ‘travelling from an area with a higher rate of infection than ours’.
While the rest of Britain will see pubs, hotels and campsites reopening this weekend, Leicester has been told to go the other way. Schools must close, along with non-essential shops and people are being told to stay at home.
Many residents say they now find themselves branded as outcasts.
‘We’re like the Leicester lepers,’ local child-protection worker, Tracy Jebbet, told Radio Leicester as she revealed her upcoming holiday to Cornwall had just been cancelled.
The management of her St Austell campsite – Pentewan Sands – have announced a ban on all bookings from Leicester and have told her she cannot go.
Data on movement in the UK, compiled by Google which reports trends across places such as parks, work, and residential areas, suggests more people in the hardest-hit coronavirus areas are going to work and less are staying at home compared with the least-hit areas.
Since lockdown, both London and Leicester have had a 57 per cent drop in transport use. But Leicester has seen only an 18 per cent drop in people going to work compared with London’s 29 per cent.
Only nine per cent more people are staying at home – where they are at less risk of catching the coronavirus – in Leicester compared with London’s 12 per cent and West Berkshire’s 19 per cent.
Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis at University of Bath, who noted a multitude of combined factors are fueling a divide in England, said it was interesting the areas hardest hit did not have the largest populations.
The millions of people in London, living, working and travelling closely together, was largely blamed for the capital’s severe coronavirus outbreak in March and April.
But the same can’t be said for Leicester, with no more than 330,000 inhabitants, according to the most recent 2011 ONS consensus, Bradford (350,000) or Barnsley (245,000).
Dr Preston told MailOnline: ‘There could be a balance between having sufficient density of population but perhaps being small enough that there is one or just a few areas where people will congregate (e.g. a distinct town centre).
‘In London, once the daily commute into the “city centre” stopped, it very likely broke up the population in to a large number of more isolated populations, in all the different boroughs.
‘Smaller places may not have these localised centres, so when restrictions ease, there may be just one shopping area, where all of the population headed.’
Dr Preston added: ‘There are clearly other sensitive factors, ethnicity is associated with risk of disease.
‘I’ve seen reports describing how some ethnic groups tend to support multigenerational households, which might facilitate spread from youngsters who are likely asymptomatic to older people who are more likely to display symptoms.
‘And, it does look like socio-economics plays a role, as it does in many diseases, so the ‘wealth’ of the towns could well be a factor.’
Last week, Leicester’s city councillor Ratilal Govind told MailOnline he thought there had been a lack of communication with people who do not speak English as a first language in the city.
He said: ‘I have seen young people getting together, having a few drinks and conversation. They are just social gatherings. With these young people there is a language barrier. They are speaking their own language and I tell them to disperse in Gujarati. There is a lack of communication made worse by the language barriers’.
But Dr Preston said despite there being communities with high numbers of people who might not be fluent English speakers, ‘there is clearly sufficient understanding of the need to book a test if showing symptoms, so it’s hard to know if that holds water’.
Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management, University of Bristol, believes if the North is genuinely seeing more coronavirus cases now, it is likely to be because people there have less immunity than in London.
Data published by Public Health England suggest that London has had significantly more exposure to Covid-19 in the past – 17.5 per cent of healthy adults by the end of April compared with between nine and 11 per cent in the North West, Midlands and North East – based on antibodies in the blood. And other research suggests a level of protection from T-cell immunity.
‘On the other hand, what data there are for the South West, South East and East of England suggest that these parts have had less exposure than the Midlands and the North,’ Professor Thomas told MailOnline.
‘It is possible that London has already achieved herd immunity, which would be marvellous news. Not the Midlands and the North yet.’
He added that Britain should prepare for an expected rise in cases, as seen in Leicester, and second peak as we move out of lockdown because ‘the Government is pursuing a contradictory strategy’.
‘It wants to take the restrictions off the economy, which is a very good idea. Lockdown is not sustainable and leads to national impoverishment.’
|Highest weekly infection rates||Lowest weekly infection rates|
|Oldham||38.6||Isle of Wight||2.8|
|Blackburn with Darwen||32.9||Enfield||2.7|
|Leicestershire||20.8||Windsor and Maidenhead||2|
|Doncaster||17.4||North East Lincolnshire||1.9|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||14.1||Barking & Dagenham||1.4|
|North Yorkshire||13.8||North Somerset||1.4|
|Shropshire||13.7||Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole||1.3|
|Bury||13.2||Kingston upon Thames||1.1|
|Calderdale||12.4||Bath & North East Somerset||1|
|Stockport||12.3||Richmond upon Thames||1|
|Cheshire West & Chester||12.3||Devon||1|
|Nottingham||10.6||Redcar & Cleveland||0.7|
|Swindon||10.4||Cornwall & Isles of Scilly||0.7|
|Wolverhampton||9.9||City of London||0|
Source: Daily Mail