Covid-19 update: Council leaders call for detailed investigation into coronavirus infection rate

BARROW’S council leader has called for an official investigation into figures that showed the borough has the highest rate of Covid-19 infection in the country.

The request has been made in an open letter to Government health minister Matt Hancock and Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie, published today.

It outlines the need for a ‘deeper dive’ into the data to ensure valuable learning is gained and shared - and the area’s most vulnerable people are offered the best protection possible from the coronavirus outbreak. 

Cllr Ann Thomson Barrow Borough Council leader, said: “The data published by Public Health England highlights Barrow as having the highest infection rate in the country.

“But we don’t know what’s behind these figures. There’s no detail at all, so we can’t take them at face value.

“We are calling upon Matt Hancock and Duncan Selbie to fully investigate the reasons for a high infection rate in our borough.

“Cumbria was ahead of the curve at the start of the outbreak and our local hospital trust took positive steps to start testing extensively right away.

“This will have contributed to the higher rate. But there might be other factors too.

“We must get to the bottom of this. Either it will offer us some reassurance that Barrow is further ahead of the curve in terms of testing or it will inform us of additional things that have contributed.”

The Public Health England figures show the infection rate in Barrow is 882.2 people per 100,000.

The population in the borough is 67,000 and the number of people who have tested positive for the virus is 552.

The incidence of chronic respiratory illness in Barrow is higher than the national average. It also has a number of wards with above average indicators of deprivation. 

These should be investigated as possible contributory factors to a high overall infection rate, the letter, also signed by borough council deputy leader Lee Roberts and chief executive Sam Plum, adds.

Cllr Thomson said: “We are in the middle of the biggest threat to public health in a generation.

“These figures don’t give us the full picture and are causing residents deep concern.

“We’re calling on the government to conduct a thorough investigation as soon as possible so we can make sure, as a community, we’re on the right path to a safe and resilient recovery.”