Oldham records highest coronavirus infection rate in country

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

OLDHAM has recorded the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country.

There were 781.1 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to November 2, ahead of Blackburn with Darwen where the rate is 720.8.

Oldham Town Centre. Photo by Gemma Carter

The proportion of people in Oldham infected is around seven times higher than it was during the spike over the summer.

No other Greater Manchester borough has had more than 700 cases per 100,000 people in any single week since the start of the Covid pandemic.

But six boroughs in the region now have the highest infection rates nationally with Wigan, Salford, Rochdale, Bury and Bolton all featuring in the top 10.

Hospital admissions in Oldham are expected to continue to rise in the next two weeks due to a 54 per cent increase in the infection rate of the over-60s age group.

Unlike the spike in the summer, the infection rate is rising across different demographics with a more even distribution between ethnicities and ages.

There are currently seven Covid outbreaks in care homes across the borough.

But Katrina Stephens, director of public health at Oldham council, said there is no ‘single driver’ behind the recent rise among the over-60s – a ‘real concern’.

She said: “We know that cases in the over-60s are most likely to translate into hospital admissions and, unfortunately, also into increased numbers of deaths.

“Over about the last three or four weeks, we’ve seen week-by-week the number of people in hospital with coronavirus increase and the number in intensive care because of coronavirus has increased.”

In Royton South West, more than 1.5 per cent of people living in the neighbourhood tested positive for coronavirus in the seven days up to October 31.

Despite the dramatic rise in parts of Royton recently, the public health director said the infection rate is relatively similar across the borough with similar figures in all five districts and no particular hotspots over a sustained period.

The council is continuing its ‘door-to-door’ conversations, explaining to people what the guidance is and discussing what they can do to protect themselves.

As the latest restrictions comes into force, the public health director stressed the importance of following the new guidelines by staying at home.

But for those who cannot work from home, Ms Stephens said Covid-secure workplaces – including measures for before and after work – will be critical.

She added: “We need to look ahead to what happens when we get to the end of this four-week period and maybe think about how we come out of this gradually and ensure we don’t release too many measures too quickly which could just mean infections rates increase exponentially again.

“I think given that we are going into lockdown with a higher than average rate, that does increase the probability that further measures will be needed coming out of it.”

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