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Oldham overtakes lockdown-Leicester to have the highest second coronavirus infection rate in England

Oldham has overtaken Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, official figures revealed today.

NHS statistics today showed Oldham recorded 54.3 coronavirus cases for every 100,000 people between July 20 and 26. 

The weekly infection rate for the Greater Manchester town has risen by 191 per cent. In comparison, Leicester’s outbreak has dropped slightly to 53.2.

Only Blackburn with Darwen is currently being hit worse than Oldham, with the area recording 85.9 cases per 100,000 people in the past week.

Two thirds of new Covid-19 cases in Oldham are among Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the council said.

Local officials have pleaded with locals to abide by tough restrictions implemented yesterday, in a desperate bid to prevent a full-blown lockdown. 

Council bosses have now urged all of the borough’s 235,000 residents to not let any visitors into their home for at least two weeks.

It puts Oldham at odds with the rest of England, after lockdown rules were relaxed earlier this month to let people to stay overnight with loved ones.

Everyone living in the Greater Manchester borough has also been asked to keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.

Current government advice for the rest of the nation recommends a one metre-plus rule — but people should keep two metres apart where possible.   

Officials noted the new guidelines would be ‘particularly tough’ for the Muslim community who were preparing to celebrate Eid on Friday.

According to official statistics, cases in Oldham have risen by 191 per cent in the past seven days. 

Some 128 people were diagnosed in the borough between July 20 and 26, according to the NHS. 

Trafford, located on the other side of Greater Manchester, has also seen a 235 per cent rise in cases over the past seven days. 

It has the fifth highest infection rate in England (36.8 per 100,000), with Manchester in ninth position (22). 

Katrina Stephens, the director of public health in Oldham, said the spike was not due to more testing but a ‘genuine increase’ in transmission, Manchester Evening News reported. 

The central and western districts have mostly been affected, and there are ‘increasingly’ cases in the younger population, particularly among 20 to 40-year-olds, Ms Stephens said at a media briefing yesterday.

A significant proportion of recent cases involve multiple individuals testing positive within a household. 

Councillor Arooj Shah confirmed they had seen a rise in cases among Oldham’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, which account for up to two thirds of overall new cases, New Post Leader reported.

Around 20 per cent of Oldham’s population are from Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage, compared to the 2.8 per cent average in England and Wales.

It is known people of an ethnic minority background are at a higher risk of catching Covid-19, and the reasons for this are still being investigated.

There are a number of ideas about why people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds have been harder hit by the coronavirus.

These include that they are more likely to live in poverty, have lower-paid jobs, and live in densely-populated areas of cities and towns, all of which raise the risk of coming into contact with other people who may carry the disease.

Along with other towns with a large Asian population suffering elevated infection rates, public officials and local politicians say large families, often living in small terraced houses and looking after elderly relatives at home, explain the ethnic population’s vulnerability to the disease. 

There is also concern the way public health messaging is being communicated to areas where English may not be the first language. 

Blackburn with Darwen, which is also under tighter coronavirus restrictions to prevent a local lockdown, has also seen the majority of new cases in ethnic minorities.

The day after the council announced new rules, on July 14, a local health chief revealed a staggering 85 per cent of the new Covid-19 infections were among the South Asian population.

Ms Shah said the new guidelines in Oldham may be ‘particularly tough’ for the Muslim community who were preparing to celebrate Eid on Friday.

She added: ‘We haven’t got any concerns about people not adhering to guidelines around Eid. I have to stress this isn’t anything to do with behavioural issues.’ 

Religious leaders have reportedly been given ‘robust’ measures in place to support people with the latest advice.

‘There are no concerns around enforcement and we haven’t had a need for that so far, that’s not the approach we’re trying to use,’ Ms Shah said.

Health chiefs are now preparing to launch door-to-door coronavirus testing in some of the hardest hit areas from next week. 

The approach has been used in Leicester for the first time during the pandemic. The NHS Test and Trace chief Baroness Dido Harding said it takes testing where it is ‘needed most’.

To limit further spread, Oldham’s council is telling people to avoid contact with others as much as possible and not to invite people into the home.

It puts Oldham at odds with the rest of England, after lockdown rules were relaxed earlier this month to let people to stay overnight with loved ones. 

Ms Shah said yesterday: ‘We know people across Oldham desperately want to see their friends and family, and get back to normal.

‘But these restrictions are essential if we are to stop the spread of coronavirus and prevent a strict local lockdown being put in place, as we have seen elsewhere in the country.’ 

Everyone living in the Greater Manchester borough has been asked to keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.

Current government advice for the rest of the nation recommends a one metre-plus rule — but people should keep two metres apart where possible.

People are still allowed to meet in groups of six as long as everyone is socially distanced and outdoors – which are current national guidelines.

And gatherings larger than six ‘should only take place if everyone is exclusively from two households or support bubbles,’ Ms Shah has reminded Oldham residents. 

Non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers are still open. But are at risk of closure if national health officials deem it necessary in the coming weeks. 

Blackburn with Darwen, which has also seen the majority of new cases in ethnic minorities, is also under tighter coronavirus restrictions to prevent a local lockdown. 

Several other places in England are under the careful watch of health officials who are trying to squash cases.  

‘Areas of intervention’ –  where there is divergence from the measures in place in the rest of England because of the significance of the spread – include Leicester, Oadby and Wigston, Blackburn and Darwen, and Luton. 

A range of measures might be introduced in an area of intervention if officials think it is necessary, such as restriction of travel for anyone other than key workers.

An ‘area of concern’ is the lowest level on the watchlist. It includes Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Northampton, Peterborough, Rochdale, Rotherham and Wakefield. 

The government had dropped Oldham from its most recent watch list of areas of concern, based on data between 13 July and 19 July.

Infections fell slightly during that week. Data shows the town’s cases have fluctuated up and down during July.

According to the most recent data, some of authorities with the highest infection rates are not seeing cases slow down. 

Sandwell, Calderdale and Manchester have each seen an uptick of more than a fifth. 

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