Test and trace ‘could cut Blackpool’s rising transmission rate’

Blackpool’s top public health official believes the area’s apparently rising coronavirus transmission rate could be reduced with a working test and trace system.

Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health at the Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, was responding to research suggesting that COVID-19 could be spreading exponentially.

He said: “What we’re likely to see now is localised hotspots, and spread in certain places.

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Blackpool suffers from some of the worst disadvantage in Britain

“The whole purpose of the test, track and trace programme, is that when we see those hospital outbreaks or those care home outbreaks that we curb the spread immediately.”

His comments come after a report from Public Health England and Cambridge University said the current R number, which shows how many people are infected by a single carrier, is 1.01 in the northwest region.

On 24 May, Boris Johnson told the nation “we must keep that R below one”.

Blackpool suffers from some of the worst disadvantage in Britain.

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Some people in Blackpool town centre were seen disregarding social distancing rules

With the deprivation comes higher than average levels of serious illness, including respiratory disease and cancer, increasing both the risk the coronavirus poses to residents and its impact on local NHS services.

In Blackpool town centre there was a noticeable disregard by some people for the social distancing rules.

Even cash machines in the pedestrian precinct provide opportunities for customers to stand too close to other people.

The government has warned that localised lockdowns might be introduced to deal with hotspots of infection.

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Jon Parks, joint owner of the Hive cafe, a few hundred yards from the Promenade, fears another lockdown would put him out of business.

“It would be devastating, to be honest,” he said, in between serving a slow trickle of customers buying takeaway coffees.

“I can’t see how we could move forward from beyond that point, no business I don’t think could actually cope with that.”