BLACKBURN-with Darwen has been hit with the "perfect storm" which has led to high Covid-19 rates, according to a report of an unpublished government analysis.

The report, by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), and leaked by the Guardian found that in deprived communities, including Blackburn with Darwen, more people had been rejected than accepted when they sought financial help to self-isolate, increasing the likelihood they could not follow self-isolation rules.

The 'perfect storm' comes from issues with wages, housing and testing-and-trace that led to high coronavirus rates, according to reports of an unpublished government analysis, concluding that people in poorer areas were less likely to be able to self-isolate due to being unable to afford lost income.

Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Councillor Mohammed Khan said: “The concerns raised in the Guardian articles are long standing issues for many northern towns including our own.

"This mixture of structural and socio-political problems exacerbated by years of austerity have clearly left us more vulnerable to a pandemic of this nature.

"That said I would make the point that our local response throughout this terrible time has, at all stages, sought to maximise what resources we do have along with the will of staff, volunteers and the local community to provide as much help and support to the most vulnerable as we possibly can.

"I am proud of what we have achieved but I continue to urge the public to work with us and follow all of the current restrictions.

“The Council continues to work with all of its partners and key stakeholders to try to address the issues raised in the article – and, again, we have achieved a lot - but in reality this also needs radical solutions at a national level to really transform the fortunes of towns like ours.

"The Government must come good on its levelling up agenda and invest properly in the north.”

The Guardian said the report also established that areas with a higher proportion of people employed in public-facing roles, for example taxi drivers or supermarket workers, were likely to see high infection rates.

Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, Cllr Julie Gunn said: "These are pre-existing conditions like the type of work people are involved in, the front facing public contact work, perhaps the low paid work where perhaps the job security isn't as strong as it is in other areas.

"In terms of the people who are out in public facing jobs, they are the ones that have kept our community going, the delivery people, the people working in supermarkets, they are who we are all relying on."

She added: "There's lots of different factors that have led to our high case load and its not to do with peoples unwillingness to comply."

The study reportedly said: “Having high numbers of people in high-risk occupation is not specific to just these enduring areas. This in isolation is not a reason for enduring transmission, but rather along with a range of other factors, overlaid, that create the ‘perfect storm’.”

Researchers looked at six months’ worth of data from the Covid-hit areas of Blackburn-with-Darwen, Bradford and Leicester and compared it against three other areas with similar socioeconomic issues but lower coronavirus case rates.

The report went on to say that “existing socioeconomic inequality” had left black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) communities more exposed to coronavirus due to living in cramped, multigenerational housing in deprived areas and working in public-facing jobs.

In his weekly column, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, Dominic Harrison, spoke of how "structural risks" of the community affect BAME populations at a higher rate.

He said: "Many BAME communities have lower incomes than the national average which is associated with higher rates of Covid.

"BAME populations are at twice at risk of Covid infections hospitalisation and mortality and have a higher proportion of overcrowded housing which makes household clusters of cases more likely.

"BAME communities have many more workers in front line key worker jobs, more exposed to the virus.

"In BAME communities, there are higher rates of long-term conditions including type two diabetes associated with higher risk of death from Covid-19 infection."

The JBC, which was established in May last year, aims to provide “evidence-based, objective analysis” to inform official decision-making over Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Guardian said the JBC report also raised criticisms of the NHS Test and Trace programme.

It said “anecdotal insight” pointed to locally-led contact tracing being “more responsive and more effective” due to an understanding of local communities’ needs.

Contact-tracing data was also not given to local authorities quickly enough to contain outbreaks, the study said, with delays in the sharing of data affecting their ability to contain virus transmission.

The report said there was “no silver bullet” to resolve the issue of ongoing coronavirus transmission, with it likely being down to a combination of linked factors including deprivation, employment and household composition.

A Government spokesperson said: “We do not comment on leaks.

“We recognise this is an incredibly difficult time for many people and we launched the Test and Trace Support Payment to help people who cannot work from home to self-isolate.

“We are working with England’s 314 local authorities to monitor the effectiveness of the scheme – including any impact on groups who may be ineligible for it.

“Local and national contact tracing teams are working in lockstep with NHS Test and Trace to break chains of transmission, and their efforts are paying off, with over 8 million people contacted and told to isolate by the 300 local contact tracing partnerships in operation.”