This is why coronavirus rates in West Yorkshire remain 'stubbornly high', according to Wakefield's director of public health Anna Hartley

Rates of coronavirus in West Yorkshire are remaining stubbornly high because of its high numbers of manufacturing jobs which stop people working from home, according to a leading health expert.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 10:57 am

Anna Hartley, the Director of Public Health in Wakefield, told the BBC's Today programme there was no evidence of people breaking lockdown rules in her area, which has a higher rate of Covid than the national average.

And she called for a cautious approach to be taken to lifting lockdown restrictions, to avoid a repeat of last year when rates per 100,000 people went from 30 at the beginning of September to 500 by early November.

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Diane Slack receives an injection of the coronavirus vaccine from a Ministry of Defence (MoD) employee at West Yorkshire's first large vaccination centre set up at Spectrum Community Health CIC, in Wakefield. Picture date: Tuesday January 26, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Ms Hartley was quizzed about the latest data which show that rates in London were now below 100 while in Wakefield it was at 179. In Bradford the rate on Friday was 196, in Calderdale 185, Kirklees 171 and Leeds 158.

And she said there was "no doubt" rates in West Yorkshire remained "stubbornly high", falling between 22 and 43 per cent since the beginning of the year compared with an 83 per cent fall in London.

She said: "When we've looked at the data on that around a quarter to a third of common exposures is the workplace. So West Yorkshire has more manufacturing jobs than anywhere else in the North of England and we also have very high percentages of small or medium-sized enterprises.

"Actually the cost of making adjustments within those businesses is really expensive to places that are already quite cash-strapped.

"We have no evidence that people have been breaking lockdown rules and we have teams going out into communities regularly to ensure that doesn't happen.

"If you think about the difference between London and the South East where there's a lot of white collar jobs, and people can work from home, and you can see that straightaway there's those regional differences."

The senior council officer said she was concerned about lockdown restrictions being lifted too fast, as the increase in cases between September and November had a "fairly devastating effect" and put the local health care system under "huge pressure".

But she said she believed schools can be opened safely to all pupils as they have already been open for some children all year "and we work incredibly closely with head teachers to ensure that every every restriction is in place".

Speaking ahead of Boris Johnson's lockdown roadmap announcement, Ms Hartley said: "Numbers are much lower amongst that nought to 18 age group, and we're fortunate that with COVID we don't see those poor outcomes in children and young people.

"It's vital that we do the best that we can for children and that's something else I'd like to see in the roadmap, an explicit recognition of the impact that it's had on children and young people.

"So if you're 45 it's been a year of your life, one forty-fifth, but if you're five, then a fifth of your life so far has been hugely impacted by COVID.

"Particularly for early years as well which we don't actually hear mentioned very much, but that nought to two age range particularly, educational experiences, going out and about, social contact, language, it's very difficult to catch that up if you lose that.

"So I'd really want to see something either in the roadmap or in policy coming out of government, that really looks at ways to address that."