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Experts confirm early testing regime was key factor in Barrow’s high infection rate

A high Covid-19 infection rate attributed to Barrow in data release last month was largely the result of extensive testing, experts have confirmed.

Barrow Borough Council leaders had called for an investigation into the figures in an open letter to government health minister Matt Hancock and the chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie.

In a return letter this week, Public Health England set out their analysis of the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the borough.

They found the early testing regime launched by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust - which runs Furness General Hospital - had contributed to the increased incidence of the virus in the area.

A team from Public Health North West are now continuing to look at the infection rate data further compare Barrow’s infection rate, adjusted for factors including population age and sex as well as levels of deprivation. This work is set to be completed by mid-June.

Councillor Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council, said: “The data released by PHE initially highlighted Barrow as having the highest rate of infection per 100,000 people in the country.

“This led to obvious concern that our residents were more at risk than people in other towns and cities.

“We called for a detailed investigation, to look at the data and identify exactly what the contributory factors were.

“Though we didn’t receive a response from the health minister, we’re pleased Public Health England have considered it and shared their initial findings with us.

“We were always clear that the swift and proactive steps taken by the hospital trust to test patients, staff and household members early in the outbreak was a positive move for the area and we are very grateful to them for the excellent job they’ve done.

“Our priority is always the health and safety of residents, so we’ll continue to watch the infection rate figures carefully as they are published and await the results of the detailed, regional study.

“We need to thoroughly understand the reasons for the high rate in order to ensure we are taking the right precautions in the right areas as lockdown easing continues.”

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