'Don't let Corby get left behind': Warning that borough could be in lockdown longer than rest of England

Corby still has the third highest Covid rate in the country - and it's believed that's down to illegal household mixing

By Kate Cronin
Friday, 5th February 2021, 5:02 pm
Northamptonshire Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman
Northamptonshire Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman

The county's most senior public health figure has told people in Corby that their lockdown could continue longer than the rest of the country if they do not start obeying the rules.

Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman said this afternoon that rates in the town remain high because of household mixing.

Corby's rate is one of the highest in the country - with 501 people in every 100,000 testing positive for Covid in the week up to January 28. Case rates among the over-60s are still RISING.

Corby's Covid rate is rose in the week up to January 28, in contrast with the rest of the country

Areas including Kingswood, Lodge Park, Rowlett ward, Cottingham, Gretton, the town centre (including the Exeter estate) the Old Village and Weldon are among the worst places.

Speaking at the county Covid press conference, Ms Wightman pleaded with local people to obey the law.

She said that the town was in danger of being left behind the rest of the country - but confirmed that an increase in testing because of the town's new Lateral Flow Testing Centre was NOT responsible for the rise in rates.

Ms Wightman said that the town had to do what it did in the summer when rates were very high and it managed to get off the Chief Medical Officer's watchlist with a lot of hard work.

"It goes to show the power of the people. If people do stick together and do the right thing, and I know its tough .. if we don't, you will see Corby fundamentally being left behind and everybody else will start to come out of restrictions and with case rates as high as they are in Corby that would not be the case, I'm sure.

"So if we want to make sure no-one in Northamptonshire is left behind, we've got to do what we did in the summer, we've got to pull together, we've got to make sure we identify every case, get everybody isolated and get that chain of infection broken."

She said that she didn't think that mass testing, as called for by MP Tom Pursglove, was necessarily the correct way to go because people who needed to go to work were already eligible for lateral flow tests, and those who didn't need to go to work should be staying at home. They could also promote a false sense of security among those who get a negative result from the test - which are not always a hundred per cent reliable.

The borough's lateral flow testing centre at Lodge Park Sports Centre carried out 1,934 tests between January 20 and February 1 and only 29 of them were positive - about 1.5 per cent.

Ms Wightman said: "It's not a high level of positivity and it's not a significant concern but it does provide reassurance that those people that are having to go in to work aren't taking Covid into a Covid-secure area. The value added there was brilliant.

"But lateral flow tests serve a particular purpose in particular settings and only if they are use correctly. If the other 98.5 per cent of people who got a negative test went and did things thatare outside the current rules they're abusing what these tests are for and contributing to some of our continued issues in Corby.

"It does not negate the fact you need to continue to comply with all of the restrictions.

Superintendent Elliot Foskett, who is leading the county's Covid policing operation, said that Northamptonshire Police were seeing the bulk of their fixed penalty notices being handed out to people mixing in different households.

He added: "We're directing more resources into the Corby area and I suspect that if you're out in Corby in the next few days you'll see an increased police presence on the streets.

"We're doing that proactive stopping of vehicles. We'll be stopping people and asking them the purpose of their journey and if you're undertaking an unnecessary journey and you've not got a reasonable excuse for being out of the house - because remember, the law is the law at the moment - we are saying to you you should be at home. Unless you've got a reasonable excuse you can expect you'd get a fixed penalty for that and are likely to do so.

Corby Council leader Tom Beattie said he believed that Corby's issues were being worsened by illegal household mixing including people forming 'bubbles' which were not legal.

He added that the rise in cases among over-60s was concerning because they were among the most vulnerable people.

"There's evidence household mixing is contributing that includes gathering indoors in household settings and multiple childcare bubbles, neither of which are permitted under current rules, car sharing also contributes to this. We've heard from the police that they'll be setting up patrols in Corby over the coming days.

"We really do need people to take responsibility.

"Without doing this our lockdown will go on longer in Corby than the rest of the country, so there's a risk there could be tighter government intervention or restrictions in place for a longer time.

"We don't want to be in a position where Corby is being treated differently to the rest of the country and unless we get on top of this.. this is what will happen."