Covid-19: Former 'role model' Luton sees 'dramatic' case rate rise

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image captionLuton successfully emerged from a local lockdown in July - but numbers of Covid-19 cases are still rising

A town which Prime Minister Boris Johnson heralded as "the way forward" for its handling of coronavirus was now facing a "dramatic" increase in deaths and cases, a meeting heard.

In August, Luton became the first town in England to emerge from additional local restrictions.

Councillors were told that "rising" local case rates diverged from the falling regional average.

There were 719 cases per 100,000 people in Luton in the week to 14 January.

A month ago - in the week to 12 December - the rate of infection was 320 cases per 100,000 people.

However, the figure for the week to 14 January saw a drop compared to a rate of 931 in the week to 7 January.

The figure for the whole of England was 443 in the week to 14 January.

The meeting of Labour-controlled Luton Borough Council's scrutiny health and social care review group was told there had been a "rapid" rise in infections since Christmas.

image captionCases have risen "rapidly" in Luton since Christmas, a council meeting heard

As reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Luton's director of public health Lucy Huber said the town was in a "very worrying" position, with "very nearly one per cent of our population testing positive for Covid every week".

The rising cases were "particularly" high in the 20-29 age group, she explained.

"They are more likely to be flexible workers, potentially on zero-hours contracts, in agency work or living in the more deprived areas, so very much our vulnerable population," she said.

"It's those who can't work from home... they have to go out to do their job, even through lockdown."

Labour councillor for the South ward, David Agbley, said: "We were being held as the role model before.

"Something drastic needs to be done. Everyone in the town should be part of the solution."

The meeting on Thursday heard there had been 35,000 tests through three sites in Luton.

More than 1,600 people had been identified as being infected but showing no symptoms.

"Were it not for the rapid tests, they would have been circulating around and potentially infecting other people," Ms Huber said.

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