Coronavirus alert as FOUR towns and cities on brink of following Leicester into lockdown

PHE has published new figures that shows the rate of new cases in each area, based on tests that have been carried out in laboratories around the country (‘pillar 1’ of the Government’s testing programme) and the wider community (‘pillar 2’). The snapshot is for the week ending June 21 and shows the number of cases per 100,000 population. Leicester, which has had several lockdown measures reimposed on it following a huge spike in infections over recent weeks, easily tops the list, with 140.2 cases.

But the East Midlands city is followed by Bradford (69.4), Barnsley (54.7), Rochdale (53.6), Bedford (42.0) and Oldham (38.6).

Professor John Wright, a doctor at the Bradford Royal infirmary has warned the figures show “Bradford needs urgent care”.

He added: “This is such a critical time to keep social distancing, avoid gatherings, maintain hand washing and keep looking after our vulnerable citizens.”

Resinding to Oldham’s figures, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I’ve said for a while that the easing of lockdown has been too soon when we’re not out of the woods yet and we risk infection rates creeping up again.

“We’re doing our bit at city-region level to support the efforts of our ten Council as well as working with national Government to introduce measures to identify infections, manage infections and support those who have been infected.”

Other figures released reveal Portsmouth (0.9), Lambeth in London (0.9), Torbay in Devon (0.7), Redcar & Cleveland in the North East (0.7), Cornwall & Isles of Scilly (0.7), Gloucestershire (0.6) Wokingham (0.6) and South Gloucestershire (0.4) all had less than one case per 100,000 population.

Three areas of the country – City of London, South Tyneside and West Berkshire – had none at all.

Updated figures for the week ending June 28 are due to be published on Thursday, as part of Public Health England’s weekly coronavirus report.

The Daily Telegraph had earlier reported Bradford and Oldham are on a Government “watch list” of places were local lockdowns could be imposed if more targeted measures fail to solve a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.

There are increasing fears several other areas in the Midlands and North of the country with large minority populations could follow Leicester back into a strict lockdown.

Whitehall insiders have confirmed Bradford, the city with the second highest rate of infection after Leicester, is being closely monitored.

Some of the UK’s most diverse towns and cities are thought to be particularly vulnerable to a large spike in infections due to higher numbers of households with multiple generations.

READ MORE: Coronavirus map LIVE: Three UK cities on local lockdown watchlist

Several other contributing factors are believed to include poverty, language barriers, higher levels of non-compliance with lockdown measures and potential outbreaks in food processing plants and factories.

Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson, who previously advised the Government on the coronavirus crisis, warned Bradford and Doncaster could be the next areas to be placed back into lockdown.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s inevitable we will have further local outbreaks. We are relaxing lockdown rules and that means that contacts in the population are going up and that’s a very variable process.”

When asked about Bradford and Doncaster, he said: “Those are areas, where not as high as Leicester, but they have some of the highest numbers of cases per 100,000 of the population, which is the relevant measure, so they’re clearly of concern.”

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Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group (Nervtag), warned the UK should prepare for more local lockdowns.

He told the Today programme: “Unfortunately I think we should. We’ve seen the epidemic is focal, which is often the case, it’s not the same in all places,” he said.

“And we saw that London unfortunately led the way in the UK and now Leicester is unfortunately leading the way and we can expect more of that, so I think there will have to be local responses to local outbreaks.”

During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons earlier today, Boris Johnson was accused of being too slow to respond to the outbreak in Leicester.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of overseeing a “lost week” when action could have been taken in Mr Johnson’s “whack-a-mole” strategy for tacking urgent coronavirus outbreaks.

Mr Johnson insisted action in Leicester had been taken from June 8 as “we could see that there was an issue there”, with mobile testing units also deployed.

But Sir Keir said the local authority in Leicester had data for pillar one tests but not pillar 2, which meant it believed there were “80 positive tests in the last fortnight, when the real figure was 944”.

The Labour leader added it was only last Thursday that the full information was provided

Mr Johnson insisted that “both pillar one and pillar two data have been shared not just with Leicester but with all authorities across the country”.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “We did in Leicester exactly what we did in Kirklees or in Bradford or in Weston-super-Mare or other places where very effective whack-a-mole strategies have been put in place.”

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