“Racism and lack of trust” could be helping cause high covid rates in Bedford – claim

Systemic racism and a lack of trust in authority could be helping push high rates of covid infection in Bedford, a meeting heard.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 5:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 5:58 pm

A Bedford Borough Council meeting yesterday (Monday) saw a league table of recent cases – with by far the highest number being recorded are in the urban wards of Cauldwell, Queens Park, and Goldington.

The ethnicity of those who have tested positive for covid-19 is also recorded and reveals the vast majority to be “white”. But that proportion has been falling in the last few weeks, the health overview and scrutiny committee heard.

Labour councillor Abu Sultan (Cauldwell) said he is “really concerned for Cauldwell with its high rate of infection.”

In the period January 4 to 10, Cauldwell saw 143 cases, well above Queens Park on 104 and Goldington on 100.

He asked the chief officer for public health, Ian Brown, whether the council could do anything different to get the message across.

Mr Brown said: “There’s always more that we can do”.

He added: “It’s also important to understand why messages aren’t changing behaviours.

Councillors were shown data on the ethnicity of covid cases

“Language is certainly one factor but I think there is often a lack of trust and authority where people feel they have been let down before.

“We have systemic racism issues like everywhere and I think also people sometimes feel like they can’t change their own personal behaviours.”

He added: “And there’s also if other people are breaking the rules why should I bother with them.”

Mr Brown said he would like to carry out some work to try to “understand why we are struggling to get through to some groups.”

League table of wards in Bedford

Cllr Sultan asked how the council could counter the main issues, which Mr Brown said were “urban overcrowding, as well as jobs that can’t be done from home.”

Mr Brown says that people in deprived areas cannot take the loss of income if they have to self-isolate or if they are facing the sack when they don’t turn up for work.

He added that it is possible to do more to cut down the risk of catching the virus if people live with someone who has it.

The committee heard that the hospital now has a record 186 covid inpatients, which is double the first and second waves.

In the most recent seven days, there had also been 30 deaths, which he said is “extremely sad, but not unexpected.”

He warned: “Sadly that will continue until our case rate falls significantly.”

Public health experts say that one person in every 30 in Bedford is believed to be currently infected.