This is why Covid cases remain so high in Rotherham and what is being done
Rotherham’s Covid infection rate is nearly twice the national average, with cases failing to fall like they have elsewhere in England.
Earlier this week, it was one of just five per cent of local authorities nationally to record a weekly rise in new cases of coronavirus.
The latest figures, published on Thursday, February 18, show a slight fall in the weekly infection rate, from 222.3 new cases per 100,000 people to 214.0.
But that remains significantly higher than the UK-wide average of 131.8 and nearly double the rate of 114.9 in neighbouring Sheffield.
Ben Anderson, Rotherham’s new director of public health, believes there are many reasons why cases aren’t falling faster.
The biggest, he says, is that the more transmissible Kent variant, which sparked the latest national lockdown, took longer to arrive in Rotherham than in other parts of the country.
That means its effect is still being felt more keenly, with the new strain responsible for vast majority of fresh cases.
Mr Anderson said it was crucial that employers, staff and self-employed workers who cannot work from home take every precaution possible to prevent transmission.
"It’s not just a case of reinforcing the message about hands, face, space. We’re asking people to look at what more they can do to make their workplaces Covid-safe because of the increased transmissibility we’re battling against, and that includes wearing face coverings when moving around the workplace,” he explained.
He said new cases among Rotherham’s older population were falling, probably at least in part due to vaccinations, but there was ‘continued spread’ among the working age population.
“We have fewer people in Rotherham who are able to work from home than in other parts of the country,” said Mr Anderson.
"We’re trying to ensure employers are making their workplaces Covid-safe and supporting staff to self-isolate when necessary.”
People who have to self-isolate can get up to £500 compensation for lost earnings under a Government programme.
But Mr Anderson said the strict criteria mean many of those applying in Rotherham have failed to qualify for the grant, often because they are on zero-hour contracts or doing cash-in-hand work.
Rotherham Council has set up its own scheme, using money from the Covid Outbreak Response Fund, to ensure no one suffers financially from having to self-isolate.
“Around 30 per cent of applications were being turned down due to the Government’s criteria but out of 33 applications to our scheme, 32 have been accepted,” said Mr Anderson.
"If you’re being asked to isolate but you know it’s going to affect your income, that affects your ability feed the family. Hopefully this will help more people to isolate and break that chain of transmission.”
Rotherham Council is now urging anyone with any viral symptoms – not just those traditionally associated with Covid like a new continuous cough, high temperature or loss of taste or smell but others including a runny nose, headache, aching muscles and tiredness.
It is also targeting messages at people of working age in the most deprived communities, particularly around the town centre, where Mr Anderson said the density of housing and the number of people living within homes there were helping the virus to spread more rapidly.
For more information about Covid-19 and the support available in Rotherham, visit: www.rotherham.gov.uk/coronavirus.