Oldham now has highest coronavirus infection rate in the country

The borough of Oldham now has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country.

The proportion of people in Oldham infected in the last week is around seven times higher than it was during the spike which took place in the summer.

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.

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.

On Monday, there were 3,024 positive tests across Greater Manchester – the first time there have been more than 3,000 on a single day in the region.

A total of 382 confirmed cases that day were in Oldham – the highest ever.

Hospital admissions in Oldham are expected to continue to rise in the next two weeks due to a 54 pc 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 of people who are in intensive care because of coronavirus has increased.

“Based on what we know from the first wave and what we know from what’s happened in other countries, we know it is very likely that those increasing cases in the over-60s will translate into higher numbers in hospital.”

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

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.

Although the number of cases among white people is rising, when adjusted for populations in each area, the infection rate is similar acrosss all ethnic groups.

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 this week, the public health director stressed the importance of following the new guidelines by staying at home.

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

At the end of the latest national lockdown on December 2,  we should ‘learn from last time’, she said, and think about releasing the restricitons gradually.

She said: “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 that we don’t release too many measures too quickly which could just mean infections rates increase exponentially again.”

She added: “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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