Almost two dozen English councils have endured more than two months of above-average levels of Covid infection, with four areas seeing sustained high levels for more than 100 days.
The Government’s Winter Plan for Covid outlines how extra support measures could be triggered for areas of ‘enduring transmission’, defined as those that have seen infections above the national or regional average for a “prolonged period”.
A report in the i newspaper suggests some councils are gearing up to receive this support imminently, which could include surge testing and help with vaccinations - but two councils where cases have been above average for the longest told NationalWorld they have had no news from the Government.
There is no set threshold for what constitutes a prolonged period, but a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told NationalWorld it would be “months rather than weeks”.
Analysis of UK government coronavirus data by NationalWorld reveals Leeds has seen the worst sustained streak of above-average infections, with 254 days straight above the England average as of 16 October.
The city recorded 502.8 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 16 October, compared to an England average of 455.7.
Calderdale, Gedling, Doncaster and Rotherham have respectively spent 188, 114, 110 and 100 days with higher than average infection rates.
Rotherham and Leeds Council both told NationalWorld they would welcome more support to tackle high Covid rates.
A total of 21 councils have spent over two months (62 days) above the England average.
Two more councils – Tameside and Derby – ended a streak of more than 62 days on 16 October, when they dropped just below the national average.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was wrong to describe triggering ‘enduring transmission’ support as representing Plan B, as it had “long been part of our core strategy”.
Support for areas of ‘enduring transmission’ however is outlined in a section of the Winter Plan titled ‘contingency planning’, alongside a section on Plan B.
This section begins by stating “it is possible that Plan A is not sufficient to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS and that further measures are required”.
Rotherham Council said it has not yet been told further support is coming, but that it would welcome it “to help break the cycle of high transmission rates in our area”.
Councillor Chris Read, Rotherham Council leader, said: “We are concerned about the enduring transmission in Rotherham. Residents and businesses by-and-large have done their best to comply with restrictions throughout the pandemic.
“Whilst we continue to raise awareness about high infection rates and encourage local people to help contain the spread of the virus, this is more difficult for many people who are physically unable to work from home because of the type of job they do or who live in larger households.”
Leeds Council’s public health team said it would welcome further support but was waiting “with the rest of the UK” for further clarity from the Government.
“Yorkshire and Humber has had an elevated infection rate slightly above the England average due to a number of complex reasons including the Delta variant reaching this region later than others,” a spokesperson said.
“Leeds has consistently been at the lower end of the infection case rates in the region due to a proactive and sustained response, including robust preventative measures, outbreak management response, widely available testing in the city as well as the vaccine programme which is being rolled out at pace.”
Calderdale, Gedling and Doncaster councils did not respond to a request for comment.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “As set out in the Autumn and Winter plan, the Government continues to work in close partnership with local authorities and we will continue to be guided by the data and local insight so that we can provide targeted support to areas that need it to slow the spread of Covid-19.”
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