Oldham coronavirus infection spike prompts new measures


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OLI SCARFF

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Oldham has brought in new measures in a bid to avoid a local lockdown

New measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 have been introduced in Oldham following a “dramatic” rise in cases.

Residents are being asked not to have social visitors to their homes and to keep two metres apart when outside.

Anyone shielding has been asked to continue to do so until 14 August and care homes will not relax restrictions.

The new measures are essential to prevent a “strict local lockdown” like in Leicester, Oldham Council’s deputy leader councillor Arooj Shah said.

“The best way to avoid infection is to limit contact with others as much as possible and to stay home wherever you can, including working from home,” she added.

Many aspects of the coronavirus lockdown have now eased across the UK but certain areas have introduced new measures to halt the spread of the virus.

Oldham follows Rochdale, its neighbouring Greater Manchester borough, and Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle in Lancashire, in introducing new restrictions.

‘Worrying increase’

The new restrictions were agreed “after the number of cases of coronavirus in the borough increased dramatically over the last week”, Oldham Council said.

Two weeks ago Oldham was on Public Health England’s (PHE) “watchlist” as an area of concern but was removed last Thursday.

Data published on Tuesday evening by PHE is showing another spike, with 119 cases recorded in the week to 24 July equivalent to more than 50 per 100,000 population. The week before saw 26 cases recorded.

Oldham has England’s third highest rate of new cases per 100,000 people for the week to 24 July.

PHE’s data shows the number of new cases for the week has risen to 119, with a further 30 cases already recorded for 25 and 26 July.

Blackburn with Darwen recorded 77.2 cases per 100,000 population in the week to 24 July, followed by Leicester with 61.9 and Oldham with 50.5.

Bradford is fourth with 46.4 per 100,000 and Hyndburn in Lancashire is fifth with 39.6 per 100,000.

Analysis

Nick Triggle, BBC Health correspondent

The action being taken in Oldham is, unfortunately, the way of life now.

With infection levels low, health officials want to quickly stamp down on any signs of local flare ups.

The rate of new infections is about three times lower than it was in Leicester when a local lockdown was announced.

But the point is it had started rising rapidly in Oldham.

By taking what may seem like small extra precautions, the council will be hoping it has a profound impact on the way people are behaving.

There seems to be some real hotspots in the north west of England and parts of the Midlands at the moment.

It is unclear exactly why, although there is certainly a link to deprivation.

People living in closer quarters and working in manual jobs where it is harder to social distance are factors in why infections are bucking the trend.

There is also concern the way public health messaging has been communicated has not been as effective in areas with a higher proportion of ethnic minorities, where English may not be the first language.

The next few weeks will prove crucial for not just Oldham, but other areas too.

Oldham Council said a “significant proportion” of recent cases involve multiple people testing positive within a household.

This shows that the spread within a household is a “real issue”, the council added.

Katrina Stephens, director of Public Health for Oldham, urged residents to “all do our bit and stick to the restrictions,” adding “we can help stop the spread of coronavirus, and protect ourselves and our loved ones”.

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