'No evidence' to show Corby's HMOs are responsible for high Covid infection rates

Corby still has the highest seven-day Covid rate in the country

Saturday, 27th March 2021, 12:14 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th March 2021, 12:18 pm
Rhosyn Harris says that HMOs are not to blame for the high case rates in Corby

County public health bosses say their data shows that houses of multiple occupation are not a significant factor in the town's high covid rates.

The town is still struggling to get its Covid infection rates down and many in Corby have pointed the finger at the thousands of people in Corby who work in factories and logistics warehouses and live in often cramped conditions in shared housing.

But at yesterday's (Friday, March 26) county press conference public health leaders said that the detailed data analysis shows they are not to blame.

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Case rates in communities across the whole of Corby are among the highest in the county

Northamptonshire County Council's Consultant in Public Health Rhosyn Harris, one of an experienced team of experts trying to get Corby's rates down, said: "We look at all the cases that have happened each week to look for patterns and we've got no evidence based on the 130 cases in the past week that HMOs are driving an increase in those case rates at all.

"We do know that there are challenges around managing transmission in HMOs, just as with any other busy household, and we produce a lot of guidance to support busy households in terms of reducing transmission within those household but there's nothing to point to that being a driver of recent case rate increases.

"I want to thank our colleagues at Corby Borough Council who are doing everything they can to make sure case rates are kept as low as possible, they really do a heck of a lot of work week on week and have been for the last year, but also thanks to the people of Corby.

"The vast majority of people in Corby are absolutely sticking to the rules and doing what they should be doing and so I don't want to make it seem like this is the majority of the population that are doing something wrong. There will be thousands of you doing what we need to do to keep case rates down.

Corby's rate (in red) is significantly higher than other in Northamptonshire, and than the England and Wales average (dotted line)

"There are issues with case rates increasing and there are certain factors in Corby that make it more challenging, for example you are less likely to want to get tested and to take up our offer of testing if you feel that you are in a low paid job or have insecure employment and you're worried about what might happen if you have to isolate for two weeks. We know that more people in Corby than in other places around the country fall into that category.

"Equally we know it's a really tight-knit community. I'm from South Wales not far from Merthyr where it's another similar community, really tight knit, and you live close to your mum, your aunties, your grandparents and it is really, really hard to not mix households when you're such close families.

"I can't begin to list all the factors that are likely to be driving this. The majority of people are doing all the right things and keeping to those restrictions and if they weren't we'd be seeing cases exponentially rising, so just to encourage those that are not quite there to keep getting tested, to get vaccinated and not go beyond the guidance."

Although Corby's Covid rate did decrease under lockdown, it is now rising again.

Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman said that the Government does not want to have local tiering and that it wants the whole country to come out of lockdown together but that there is flexibility should Corby not be in a position to come out of lockdown.

"Central government is clear we want to do this as a country but they have afforded the flexibility should they need it," she said.

"We have provided as many tools as within our gift at this time and we've focused a lot of those efforts in Corby but it's about encouraging people to utilise them. They're there to protect themselves and their work colleagues and their friends and family so please, the more people we have engaging in those services the more likely we are to keep those cases low and to be able to move forward.

"If we see exponential rises we do risk getting some of those additional freedoms back."