The New Covid Variant: Why Leicester Might Become the Next Bolton

Independent SAGE provided another excellent briefing earlier this afternoon which provided some useful information about the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19 in Bolton. The briefing correctly noted that vaccination uptake in Bolton (across all age groups) was the same as that attained across the rest of the country. They explained that the main reason why the new variant was spreading rapidly in this city (and others) was because the government had failed in their duties to, first put India on the red list, and secondly, to ensure that people returning from India were able to self-isolate.

The rate of Covid-19 infections in Bolton remains very high at 342.5 cases per 100,000 population (as of May 16), and it is entirely possible that Leicester may find itself in a similar situation within a couple of weeks or so as we too have a problem with the new Indian variant.

Thus, in Leicester the current infection rate is 50.8 cases per 100,000 population (as of May 16); and for a point of comparison, we should observe that on April 26 Bolton had a similar infection rate of 48.3 cases per 100,000 population.

We should also note that in Bolton, on April 26 the age group with the highest rate of infections were 15 to 19 year olds, whose infection rate was 115 cases per 100,000 population. By May 16 the infection rate in this age range had increased to 705.3 cases per 100,000 population.

Returning to Leicester, infection rates (as of May 16) were highest in those aged 15 to 19 – at 107.2 cases per 100,000 population. So, if Leicester followed the same sort of trajectory as seen in Bolton, we can see how in just a few weeks it is entirely possible for Covid-19 infections to go through the roof in our city too. This is even more likely because as of this Monday the government advice for secondary school and college age children is to no longer wear masks in classrooms.

None of this is to say that the death rate will be high in either Bolton or Leicester, as most vulnerable people will be protected by the vaccine. But if the new variant does spread widely in Leicester (as in Bolton) then it is very likely that our hospitals could soon become full again. Hence the government and local authority must act to immediately do everything in their power to minimise the viruses spread in Leicester.

One action that can be taken immediately by the government is to encourage all secondary age and college aged children to wear masks when in their classrooms; while another important action would be to provide the financial resources to enable those living in poverty to be able to afford to self-isolate if need be.[1]

[1] Owing to the effects of Tory cuts that disproportionately affect Labour-run city’s like Leicester. New research from Loughborough University determined that in the past five years the number of children growing up in households living in poverty had increased from 30% to 39.9%. As if this news were not bad enough the government are still planning to cut Universal Credit payments in October by the £20 they had increased them by to help people manage during the pandemic. See Finvola Dunphy, “Calls to revoke £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit amid ‘dramatic rise’ in child poverty,” Leicester Mercury, May 21, 2021.

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