Coronavirus: Why has Barrow-in-Furness been hit so badly? – BBC Newsnight

published on July 13, 2020

Barrow-in-furness is a place that owesits existence to the sea an area ofheavy industry known perhaps best as thetown that makes Britain's nuclearsubmarine but during this covert crisisBarrow has become known for something

Darker it has experienced Cove isterribly dreadfully the worst-hit townin the UK according to the media thehighest number of cases in the countryor to quote the Daily Mail a pariah townwe end up with a pariah time headline

But also images of Barrow beingbarricaded with people in white seatsturning people away it's even caught theeye of the health secretary but can itreally be the case that one town in theUK had covered 19 so much worse than

Anywhere else in many ways Barrow is cutoff from the rest of the UK themountains of the lakes to the north andthe sea to the west and the south itlies on a peninsula there's only one wayinto Barrow and one way out the longest

Cul-de-sac in Britain as itsaffectionately known here and thatgeographical placement has helped togive the town a distinctive feel adistinctive culture and community peoplehere talk to each other and they know

That right now the town itself is beingtalked about what have you heard exactlyWestern only asking in that way do youthink it's a hotspot sirwell yeah according to figures yeahin terms of cases per 100,000 people

Barrow has the highest number in the UKby a considerable margin but noteverything seems to add up here if itreally was an explosion of new caseshere worse than anywhere else you wouldexpect the local hospital to have way

More activity than anywhere else – butthere's no evidence of that in factfurnace General Hospital told News 9that the hospital managed withincapacity plans in place to make surethat that didn't happen it's something

That local nurse jennifer Cully whotreated many Kovac patients backs upherself on a day to day basis it didn'tfeel like that but that's what thestatistics were telling us what what didit feel like it felt it felt strange but

It felt like normal work it felt like wewere coughing and that everything was upyou know as good as it could be at thattime what the NHS trusts did do here wastest and test a lotNewsnight has seen figures that show

That walk and Trust have tested two anda half times more than the UK average infact the director of public health heresays that eight times as many over 65shave been tested in Barrow than thenational average how much is this about

Barrow having tested more than otherplaces and how much is this aboutpotentially other factors that's themillion-dollar question that's whatwe're trying to find out at the momentmy sense is that in terms of the the

Positive results that we're gettingthrough a very substantial proportion ofit is about the testing regime but thatwon't explain it all and certainly whenyou look at the mortality data which isalso higher you can see that it's not

Just about the testing regimehere's that mortality data seventy-twopeople have died in Barrow that's anaverage of 107 deaths per 100,000 peoplethe average for England and Wales is 74per 100,000 that means that Faro far

From being the worst in the countryisn't even the worst hit place inCumbria but it still puts Barrow fortyfive percent above the national averageborough like many places in the UK hasbeen affected disproportionately badly

But why well one theory here is it's todo with the housing itselfit's a bit like topper nation Streetwhere though it's not a massive town buteveryone lives in very close proximityto each of it you know around half the

Housing here is terraced housing andthat's something the MP here feels couldhave been a factor so so Barrow ispretty much single-story but we havehigh density terraced housing and in ifyou look at population density we're not

Unlike a large town or even a small cityin terms of in terms of that so so itmakes sense that the spread has beengreater because of that outer boroughsnegative headlines has been a communalhead scratch why us and out of that has

Come speculation some aimed at thetown's biggest employer here's thetheory during the rounds here there's alot of people is that something you'veheard about as many people working nowby first at the whole of the company was

Working weren't theythis is a theory we heard time and timeagain that contractors from BAE Systemscoming in from outside the town may havespread the virus the problem with thistheory is just that it's a theory we

Didn't find any evidence for this andBAE Systems vehement lee deny it it'ssomething I asked the local MP aboutit's there any evidence to suggest thatBAE Systems has anything to do withburrows higher than average death rate

So I've spoken to the Department ofHealth and our Director of Public Healthin Cumbria about this and there'snothing that they can see to suggestthat big employers we have sellafield upthe road as well have been drivers of

Infection I mean it's hard to believethat when you've got large groups ofpeople it won't lead to infection butnothing to suggest it's above you knowany national averagewhat is clear is that people don't

Totally know what's gone on here peopledon't know whether Barrow has been hitreally badly or just badly and as aresults of that people are reaching forconclusions and BAE Systems is one ofthose conclusions there are other

Theories to the people of Barrow simplydidn't follow social distancing duringlockdown but I spoke to the local policehere who said they'd seen no evidencethat people in Barrow followed the rulesless than elsewhere the truth is that

Barrow isn't a prior town there's almostnothing that we can find in the statsall the way that Barrow reacted to thispandemic that warrants that moniker butsome of the clues as to why it has ahigher death rate than others

Can almost certainly be found in thecharacter of the town itself it's publichealth profile ro has a greater level ofobesity than the England and Walesaverage for example and things like lifeexpectancy are lower here to three years

Lower for men and two for women it'sthese health inequalities that publichealth officials believe makes not justBarrow but other areas that are olderand poorer more vulnerable to theillness even before covert 19 Barrow has

Some of the lowest life expectancy inCumbria it's got high rates of smokingit's got ride rates of heart diseaseit's got relatively high rates ofobesity and all of those things areknown as substantial factors that impact

On kovat 19 mortality as well so in manyways you would expect to see a higherrate of mortality in Barrow than in manyother parts of the country that doesn'tmean it's okay of course it still showsthat Barrow has got these substantial

Challenges and it's incumbent on us inpublic health to work with that and totry and do something about itso can borrow get back to its feet yeahyeah well the stairway leads to sociallydistant so but Phil Simpson is looking

To open his pub as soon as he canso we through this so there how manypeople can be at the bar he's optimisticabout the future people aren't going tocome out we'll get compensated by thatby the fact that we've got less space so

I'm quite positive I think we'll be ok Ithink once we're up and running it willbe back to business as normal prettyquickly just different a differentnormal and people will find it weird fora while and then it's not weird anymore

And that that's my hope but Barrow nowhas its own specific problem and gettingback to normal does it make it even morechallenging when Barrow has been sort oflabeled for black spots of Britain termsof covert 19 so I don't think it makes

The recovery more difficult and I thinkwhat it makes challenging is gettingchildren back to school and people backto workbecause there's that fear in back ofpeople's minds they're worried that

Actually there is something therethere's something that's not understoodand they're putting themselves they'reputting their families but in thatbusiness is at risk by by stepping outfrom their from their homes and that's

The real problemin many ways there's still much we don'tunderstand about kovat imperfect datacan lead to places like Barrow beingunfairly singled out what's becomingincreasingly clear though is that kovat

19 is not indiscriminate that's part ofthe cruelty of this virusit hits vulnerable places harder than itdoes others far from being exceptionalBarrow story is in fact a depressinglycommon tale up and down the country with

Health inequalities made starker stillby this pandemic

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