Northern Covid rates were not as low as the South at end of lockdown – Van-Tam

The second wave of coronavirus infections has emerged most prominently in northern England because rates had not dropped as low as in the South at the end of lockdown, it has been confirmed.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told a press briefing on Monday that the increase in Covid-19 infections had become a “nationwide phenomenon”, but the North had seen the fastest rate of re-emergence because cases “never dropped as far in the summer” as they did in the South.

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

It comes as the Government prepares to announce sweeping new controls in an attempt to stem the surge of infections, with Boris Johnson due to set out his his three-tier strategy in a Commons statement.

Parts of the North of England are bracing themselves for the most stringent Tier 3 controls, with Merseyside expected to have its pubs, gyms and casinos closed in a bid to suppress its infection rate.

Speaking at the press briefing, Dr Jane Eddleston, medical lead in Greater Manchester, said the North West currently has about 40% of Covid cases and 30% of the region’s critical care beds are taken up with patients suffering from the disease.

HEALTH Coronavirus Hospitals
HEALTH Coronavirus Hospitals

Prof Van-Tam, addressing a question about a presentation slide depicting a creeping rate rise in the South, said: “You have worried me now that I might have presented a bipolar picture that Covid-19 is a problem in the North and not a problem in the South.

“On the contrary, the epidemic this time has clearly picked up pace in the North of England earlier than it did in the first wave, and that almost certainly relates to the fact the disease levels in the North, and certainly in the North West, never dropped as far in the summer as they did in the South.

“But pretty much all areas of the UK are now seeing growths in the infection rate and that extending brown map that I showed you, which is sourced from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, absolutely makes that point.

“This is a nationwide phenomenon now that rates are changing upwards across the UK.”

Northern leaders have for weeks been claiming that the UK Government lifted the national spring lockdown restrictions with London and the South East in mind.

I am grateful to the Deputy CMO for recognising this point. Too many rush to blame the public in the North without understanding this.

— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) October 12, 2020

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham tweeted after the press conference: “I am grateful to the deputy chief medical officer for recognising this point.

“Too many rush to blame the public in the North without understanding this.”