Covid-19: Corby 'worried' about staying in lockdown

By Jo Black & Pete Cooper
BBC News

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image captionCovid-19 rates have been falling in Corby but more slowly than other parts of England

For the last month Corby in Northamptonshire has had one of the highest Covid-19 rates in England. So how do people there feel about the easing of restrictions and what do they think is behind their persistently high rates?

'Corby has to be cautious'

image captionCorby's strong manufacturing economy means Covid-19 rates have not fallen as fast, says Shelaine Crabtree

Shelaine Crabtree, who runs the Hungry Hossee Cafe in Corby, says she is worried about the high rates in the town.

"We don't want to come of this lockdown too soon and go back into another one.

"Potentially this could be a little bit longer than we thought if we want to do it safely," she says.

When she heard the furlough scheme had been extended to September, she felt it indicated some restrictions could return, despite Boris Johnson saying the route out of lockdown was "irreversible".

But could Corby could come out of lockdown slower than the rest of the country?

"Corby has to be cautious with everything that is happening.

"Anything is possible," she says.

'Everybody needs to toe the line'

image captionCorby's town centre director, Dan Pickard, says businesses do not want to be in lockdown longer than necessary

Dan Pickard, town centre director for Corby, says most people in the town are sticking to the rules.

"But with anything like this, there are always going to be those doubters and people who aren't going to toe the line."

Some 35% of the shops in the town centre are independent retailers, he says.

"They're Corby people, it's their businesses, their livelihoods, that are at stake."

Dan says he has been "dragging people into high streets and town centres to keep them vibrant" for 30 years.

"It breaks my heart to see all these shops locked."

The government has said all shops can reopen no earlier than 12 April, which Dan says gives Corby some time to get the rates down.

"There is a chance we can pull this back if everybody toes the line. We're desperate to get back to normal."

Covid-19 rates in Corby

image captionCorby has had one of the highest weekly Covid-19 rates for the past month

According to the latest figures, the infection rate in the week to 28 February in Corby, Northamptonshire, was the second-highest case rate for any district in England with 188.3 cases per 100,000 people.

But this represented a 46% week-on-week drop in case rates.

The England-wide average in the same period was around half of Corby's with 96.9 cases per 100,00 people.

'We went from lowest to highest'

image captionThe amount of food processing and distribution in Corby has contributed to high rates, says Gloria Ellenton

Gloria Ellenton runs a catering company and says the last 12 months have been "horrendous" for the business.

"We've been rebooking events and then cancelling, thankfully clients have rebooked for the summer and hopefully it will go ahead.

"We've built up reserves so I have survived, so I count myself very lucky I can carry on."

Gloria is also co-chairman of Corby Business Group and says Corby is a "victim of its own success".

"There's plenty of work and people are brought in from all over the area so there is mixing all the time.

"Everyone seems to be working, so there is bound to more infection."

She says "everybody's worried" about the prospect of Corby staying under restrictions longer than other parts of the country.

"It's strange, we went from the lowest in the country to the highest and that's worrying for the council and local people."

'Painfully slow progress'

image captionNorthamptonshire director of public health Lucy Wightman says the high rates in Corby are "frustrating"

Lucy Wightman, director of public health for Northamptonshire, says Corby seems to "take one step forward, then take two steps backwards".

She says the chance of some kind of restrictions remaining for Corby while they lift in other places is a "real risk".

"We've got this one last push to get back on top of our rates to ensure we don't get left behind when lockdown does actually start to be lifted.

"It's a real concern. This isn't an empty threat."

The government says the whole country will come out of lockdown at the same time, but easing restrictions was about "data not dates".

"The data for Corby is not good. Although we are making progress, it is painfully slow," she says.

"This is a marathon for Corby. It's not a sprint."

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