Blackburn lockdown panic: Town faces rising tide of COVID cases – long test centre queues

A video from the army-run virus testing centre in Blackburn shows dozens of cars queuing to enter the venue. Pictures also showed long queues of cars waiting to enter the testing centre at Witton Park High School in Blackburn and Darwen. It comes after Professor Dominic Harrison, the local authority’s director of public health, warned the Lancashire town is facing a “rising tide” of coronavirus cases.

He warned the town has two weeks to get the numbers down before lockdown measures are reversed.

Extra restrictions were brought in on Tuesday.

Professor Harrison told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have what we call a rising tide event rather than an outbreak, and by that we mean that we’ve got a number of cases rising in specific areas across a significant community, but not a single big outbreak like Kirklees or other areas that had a workplace outbreak.

“It can have the same effect because it can drive up the cases, but what we are seeing from looking at the postcode data of those cases is, in the last couple of weeks, is that what we are seeing is a single case being infected, then going back to a household and all that household becoming infected.”

“And when we look at the data what we can see is clusters in a part of the town, but the clusters are household clusters, so a number of those are causing the rising tide event and we know that they are in mainly south-Asian areas, and they are in areas with high number of terraced houses with high numbers of occupants in the house, so four or more, five or more people in the household.”

He said the Blackburn with Darwen borough, which has an Asian population of about 28 percent, had 114 cases in the last two weeks and 97 of those cases were among south Asians.

The rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 has gone up to 47 per 100,000, up from 31.6 cases in the seven days to 4 July.

The area is third on the list of highest weekly rates, behind Leicester, which has a rate of 118.2 cases per 100,000, and nearby Pendle, with a rate of 76.6.

Due to the surge in new cases, the local authority has established an outbreak control management board and introduced five new lockdown measures.

These include, making face masks mandatory in all public spaces including workplaces, inspections on small corner shops, asking people not to hug or shake hands as a greeting, increasing testing sites and reducing household visits to one househould plus two members from another household.

The south Asian community are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, as a higher percentage of the population have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions, and they are more likely to live in multi-generational households.

A recent study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, found 40 percent of the South Asians in a group of more than 30,000 had diabetes – which was a “significant factor” in their increased risk of death from the disease.

The data was taken from hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales from February 6 to May 8, with patient follow-up to May 22.

People who were South Asian were 28 percent more likely to be admitted to critical care, as were those who were black (36 percent increased risk), compared with those who were white, the study found.

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