Bury’s coronavirus infection rate is continuing to rise – and officials say they are unable to explain why.
The borough now has the second highest rate in Greater Manchester after the number of Covid-19 cases increased by 16 per cent over the last week.
A total of 446 positive tests were recorded across Bury in the week up to February 20 – up 60 on the previous seven days.
Whilst cases have continued to fall across most of the region, the borough’s infection rate has persistently increased for more than a week and now stands at 233 cases per 100,000 people. Only Bolton has a higher rate at 236.
However, health bosses say they have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the rise in Bury.
Speaking at a press conference today, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor, Sir Richard Leese, described the situation in Bury as ‘a cause for concern’.
He added that there was no single reason Bury’s public health department was able to point to for the growing infection rate.
“The number in Bury has gone up,” he said. “It’s still a lot less than it was three weeks ago.
“We can’t find any particular explanation for that. There don’t seem to be any particular outbreaks there, but obviously that’s a slight cause for concern that we have got that reversal.”
After Bury’s rates first started to increase again last week, the borough’s Director of Public Health, Lesley Jones, described the change as ‘concerning’.
She suggested that the number of essential workers in the town was a potential reason for the climb in cases.
It is believed the town has a higher proportion of people working in essential jobs which mean they cannot work from home – meaning they are at higher risk – according to the health boss.
Bury has also been hit by the new and more infectious strain of the virus – first discovered in the South East just before Christmas.
The new variant of Covid-19 has quickly become the most common strain in the borough, and accounts for more than 95 per cent of its new cases as it spreads more quickly from person-to-person.
James Daly, the MP for Bury North, said that while the spike in cases across the borough was concerning, the number of people dying and being admitted to hospital with the virus was now falling.
He added that he was not ‘massively concerned’ by the rates in his constituency.
Mr Daly said: “They are higher than we would want, but not massively out of kilter with the national picture.
“People in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington have been fantastic in abiding by the rules and I hope they continue so we can get back to normality as soon as possible.”
According to the NHS’ interactive coronavirus map, higher numbers of cases appear to be largely surfacing in the south of Bury.
The highest rate of infection in the borough was recorded in the Sedgley Park area of Prestwich, where cases of the virus went up by 100 per cent in the seven days up to February 19.
The surge in cases – from 25 to 50 – means the area’s infection rate now stands at 522 cases per 100,000 people, the second highest in Greater Manchester.
The area is home to one of the UK’s largest Jewish communities, and there are fears that the virus could spread further as families prepare to celebrate the annual Purim festival later this week.
Speaking today, the region’s deputy mayor Baroness Beverley Hughes said a dedicated police operation was in place working with the Jewish community.
She added: “Generally, the community is supportive of the scaled-down celebrations this year and are compliant with that.
“There is some concern amongst the leaders of that community that the younger members of the community might still try to celebrate in the way they are used to.
“But there are dedicated resources in terms of engagement and that will continue during this celebration period.”
Meanwhile, the number of cases in neighbouring Prestwich Clough & Rainsough has also soared – from 10 to 27 over the last week – at an infection rate of 493 cases per 100,000 people.
Another area of Bury with increasing number is Radcliffe where 33 new cases were recorded – an increase of 13 on the previous week – at a rate just under 390 cases per 100,000 people.
A spokesperson for Bury Council said: “Infection rates across Bury fluctuate from week to week across our neighbourhoods.
“We are not aware of any single reason behind the increased number of cases this particular week in Sedgley Park.
“Bury’s overall infection rate, however, is still too high. We must continue to follow the lockdown rules and maintain social distancing, especially given that 95% of new cases in Bury are of the Kent variant which is much more infectious. We would also urge everyone to go for a vaccination when they are invited for one.”
The infection rate for Greater Manchester now stands at 181 cases per 100,000 people, while the England average is 118.