Fears that Bedford’s R-rate has gone above 1 as council awaits details how local lockdowns will work

Bedford’s mayor is worried that the borough’s crucial R-rate might have gone above the critical level needed to control the coronavirus pandemic.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 3:30 pm

Having an R-rate below one means covid-19 is on the way to being wiped out, but a rate above one means it risks running out of control as each person with the disease gives the infection to more than one other person.

Referring to publicly available data on the infection rate, mayor Dave Hodgson said he found it “worrying”.

“I have had discussions with Public Health England but they give no specific reason why Bedford is out of kilter with the rest of the region,” he told Wednesday’s meeting of the borough council’s health and wellbeing board.

Mayor Dave Hodgson

“I have been asking for the data for three weeks, and we need it for the opening of schools and shops but we don’t have a local figure.

“We might have an R number that is above one,” he said. “I really worry about the quality of the data.”

Figures on the Government’s website at 4.40PM on Wednesday showed that there were 703 cases of infection in the borough, giving it a rate of 409.6 per 100,000 population. That’s an increase of 50 since June 4 but the website does not say why.

Muriel Scott, the borough’s director of public health said: “It has been difficult to get the data to inform decision making.”

Director of public health, Muriel Scott

Councils have been put on alert to prepare plans for how they would cope with localised coronavirus outbreaks.

Muriel Scott’s report added: “Although it is difficult to quantify clearly, Test and Trace is likely to require significant level of resource from across the council, with potential implications for other business as usual activities.”

The mayor says the council was alerted on May 22 that it would need to have a plan.

“I have been promised in three briefings that more details will follow shortly,” he said.

Cllr Louise Jackson

“It gives us three weeks of waiting for guidance then two weeks to put it in place,” he said. They are aiming to have a plan in place before the end of June.

He added that council officers are “trying to put together our best guess.

“We still don’t know whether it might mean locking down a street, a town, a borough, or a country.

“We need to know now,” he added. “We are told it could be postcode-based, but what that means we don’t know.”

“Data quality and lack of early guidance doesn’t help us on the ground.”

But Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), the council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing said the borough was in a better place than “a lot of areas to know what to do when the guidance comes through.

He concern was with “words being used are changing all time.”

“Isolate is so important,” she said. “If people aren’t going to isolate with the illness it’s pointless. It’s a really, really important part. If that does not happen it will be difficult to get things under control.”