A Lancashire town with high Covid rates is likely a sign of what’s to come in the county, a health official has warned.
Cases in the town of Darwen last week reached more than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants, placing the region among the highest in the UK.
Dominic Harrison, director of public health in Blackburn with Darwen, said the area as a whole is well below that level, but told LancsLive the lower local rate was due to Omicron cases appearing there earlier. .
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Mr Harrison explained that the combined borough is well below the national and Northwestern averages in terms of rates of Covid-19 infections. However, he warned that a rapid increase is expected over the next few weeks and surrounding areas will eventually catch up with Darwen Town.
In Blackburn along with Darwen, the town of Darwen is considered the “seed” area where Omicron was first seen and that is why its rates are much higher than the areas around it.
Residents of the city and surrounding areas are urged to act with caution, but what is life really like for those who live there.
Des Ingham runs the Tease Your Tastebuds stand at Darwen Market and says business remains strong.
The stall has been selling tea cakes, breads, pies, cakes and cookies at the market for several years and Des says people continue to go out and stock up on party supplies.
He said, “The market doesn’t look too bad, we seem to be reasonably busy.
“I can’t speak for the other stands but we’ve been very busy today.
“I would say it’s pretty much normal for us, we seem to have done well.”
Des added: “It’s hard to assess how different it is because last year was the same but we don’t seem to have had much of a problem with attendance.”
Cllr Brian Taylor lives in the city and has been warned of the high rates through his role on council. He said he was taking a cautious approach to come out as a result.
“I’m over seventy myself, so I avoid high traffic places for obvious reasons,” he said.
“I wear my mask religiously and I would like others to do that too. It is a very virulent virus.
“I went to Darwen Market Hall yesterday and it was really quiet but maybe it was around this time because I went so early.”
Meanwhile, Mr Harrison has warned that while rates for much of Lancashire remain lower than hot spots such as London, a rapid increase is expected over the next few weeks.
Noting that six London boroughs recently saw a 150% increase week after week, he urges those in Lancashire to remain cautious and protect themselves from the rapidly spreading variant.
He said: “What we know when we look at him is that Omicron has passed Delta in most parts of Lancashire.
“One of the reasons [why Darwen is higher] is that Omicron first spread to the district of Darwen.
“Across the country, what we’re seeing is that we’ll get a lower rate for an area as a whole, but the smaller areas where the variant first appears are higher than the others.
“The way we know what’s going to happen is to look at London and what we can expect is something very similar across the country.”
Adding that he is certain of a rapid increase in cases over the next three weeks, he said: “The peak will come first in London, but there does not appear to be any sign of that yet.”
Mr Harrison said health officials believe additional restrictions should have already been introduced and are expected to follow soon, speculating that measures previously seen in ‘level two’ restrictions are most likely.
He said earlier intervention would have meant all measures would have been in place for less time, criticizing the rapid changes between little or no measures at “panic” levels during earlier stages of the pandemic.
But while restrictions seem likely to follow, Mr Harrison said that shouldn’t be seen as a reason to be more lax on security now.
Advising people to get vaccinated and boosted, he added: “Consider cutting back on all social contact if you want to have a Christmas and New Year’s vacation without Covid.
“People who contract Covid in the next few days are going to have to isolate themselves not only from their friends but from all of their family. “
Mr Harrison continued: “Take a test before you go to a social gathering, especially if you are seeing friends and family for Christmas, especially if there are elderly and vulnerable people present.”
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