Almost one in every six people in the North West have had coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The region has recorded 1.2 million cases of the disease, more than any other region in the country, according to UK Government data.
This is the equivalent of 1,903 people testing positive each day on average between 30 January 2020 and 13 November 2021 - 1.4 times greater than the average across all regions.
Think-tank Institute of Public Policy Research North (IPPR North) said the North West has not received the support and investment it requires to create good health in their communities.
The worst affected areas
The North West has also recorded the highest rate of cases with 16,870 cases per 100,000 people recorded.
That means to date, 16.9% of its population have tested positive at some point. That is compared to an England average of 14.2%, and a low of 11.9% in the South West.
The region’s local authorities are also at the top of the leaderboard.
Blackburn with Darwen has been the worst affected local authority in England with more than one in five people (21%) having had the disease - the area has recorded 31,449 cases since the start of the pandemic.
This is followed by two more North West local authorities - Knowsley, where 20.1% of people have had coronavirus, and Burnley, where 19.7% have.
North Norfolk has the lowest proportion of people having had the virus. The local authority has recorded 7,373 cases meaning just 7% of the population have been confirmed to be infected. .
The calculations are based on Office for National Statistics population estimates for 2020.
The proportion infected is an estimate, as some people may not have taken a test while others have been infected more than once, but are only counted once in the government Covid data.
‘North West is not being empowered’
Dr Arianna Giovannini, interim director of IPPR North, said NationalWorld’s analysis “comes as little surprise”.
Dr Giovannini said: “Social determinants of health – the things that influence health outcomes like your housing and income – affect your risk of catching Covid-19.
“But places in the North West have not been empowered by central government to build health locally: they have not received the support and investment they need to create good health in their communities.
“In addition, they have seen their resilience eroded after a decade of austerity imposed by Westminster. Indeed, public health budgets in the North West have been cut by £15.13 per person in real terms since 2014.
“The pandemic continues, and it will continue, to have a disproportionate impact on northern people and economies until ambitious action is taken to empower local leaders and communities to build their own health resilience.”
‘Considerable challenges and loss’
Dr Merav Kliner, interim regional deputy director North West at the UK Health Security Agency, said there were various reasons why the North West has been the hardest hit region.
Dr Kliner said: “Throughout this pandemic the North West has experienced considerable challenges and loss.
“Due to a variety of factors – a combination of social deprivation, disadvantaged communities, health inequalities and social issues – the North West is a challenging public health environment.
“This period has been incredibly tough on us all and it has cost us so much, but this virus is far from beaten and we have to keep doing the simple things that save lives.”
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