Beds, Herts & Bucks

Coronavirus in Bedford: No overall reason for high incidence rate

social distancing markers
Image caption People are being asked by Bedford's mayor to keep two metres apart, wear a face covering and regularly wash their hands

Overcrowding and a high number of ethnic and care home residents have been cited as reasons for a town's high rate of Covid-19 cases, a public health report shows.

The study in Bedford showed it was declining, but the borough still had England's sixth-highest infection rate.

The report said there was "no single reason" for the high rate.

There had been 216 hospital deaths, 22 deaths in care homes and 1,243 reported cases.

Image caption Wider pavements have been created on the town's High Street to allow for easier social distancing

The interim data released by Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity Centre followed a "deep dive" into the statistics.

The report showed weekly infection rates released on 25 June were running at 42.0 cases per 100,000, but that number dropped to 18.1 at the start of July.

Health officials discovered there had been 50 suspected or confirmed "outbreaks" in the borough, with 42 in care homes, 24 at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre, 20 positive tests at a warehouse and further cases in HMP Bedford.

The Harpur and De Parys areas were more vulnerable for reasons including care home density, deprivation and existing prevalence of chronic health conditions.

In schools, there have just been two confirmed cases in one primary since more pupils returned on 1 June.

The report also found women aged between 30 and 59 were the most affected sex/age group.

Suggested reasons for the high incidence of infection among black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups nationally have previously been cited as being due to existing health inequalities, housing conditions, public-facing occupations and structural racism.

Image copyright Dave Hodgson
Image caption Directly-elected Mayor Dave Hodgson said everyone needed to remain "vigilant and take every precaution to guard against this virus spreading"

"There isn't one hot spot area and no particular area or demographic that it has come from," said Bedford Borough Council's Liberal Democrat leader Mayor Dave Hodgson.

"Let's not be complacent about this - we need to see a consistent drop.

"It does highlight some more work to be done, to trace back some of the cases to see if there is a common thread."

Measures to lower the rate includes better testing at Bedford Hospital and faster results, he added.

The final report is expected to be published in two weeks' time.

Image caption A number of signs have been placed around the town reminding people to Stay Safe and 2m apart

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