Councils obfuscate Covid-19 statistics

Last week H&D reported detailed statistics behind the headlines about Covid-19 in Oldham, the Lancashire town that is on the brink of lockdown following a renewed surge in cases of the pandemic virus.

It is now clear that as we suggested last week, Oldham council deputy leader Arooj Shah was being disingenuous in suggesting that the virus had spread “in all areas, in all age groups, and in all communities”. (Paradoxically, as we reported last week, Cllr Shah is not on good terms with local Muslim ‘community leaders’ and is a an example of the way the Labour Party is in many areas at war with conservative Islam.)

While it is true that there has been a scattering of Covid-19 in different parts of Oldham, there is a very marked concentration in certain parts of the town with an especially high Asian population. (There is also some slight evidence to suggest that Pakistani areas are seeing more Covid than Bangladeshi areas, but the jury is still out on that.)

For the period 7th-13th August (the most recent detailed statistics) the main Covid hotspot was the Alexandra Park census area with 48 cases (having had 55 the previous week). Local reports suggest that as many as 30 of these cases are from just one extended family and their immediate neighbours. The Manchester Evening News reports this but is too cowardly to state that Alexandra Park is a predominantly Pakistani area, containing the Glodwick ghetto that was at the centre of riots in 2001.

The other main Covid area in Oldham is Werneth, with 34 cases this week and 42 last week. At least 15 cases are understood to involve workers at the Park Cakes factory, a major local employer situated on the main road that separates Werneth and Alexandra Park. There is no suggestion that Park Cakes has been at fault in any respect.

The Salem area which borders Alexandra Park and also contains part of the extended Glodwick ghetto is the third-highest Oldham Covid area with 25 cases this week and 12 last week; while the original Bangladeshi area known as Busk, on the edge of the town centre and close to Oldham Athletic’s football stadium Boundary Park, had 15 cases this week and 12 last week.

While politically correct media have highlighted poverty as a contributory factor, the equally poor or in many cases poorer White areas of central Oldham have seen smaller (and in some cases negligible) rates of Covid. These include Alt with 12 cases; Lime Side & Garden Suburb with 11 cases; Derker with only 3 cases; and Moorside & Sholver with no registered cases at all.

The relatively affluent and White villages comprising Saddleworth to the east of Oldham are divided into four different census areas. Three of these reported three Covid cases each this week, while a fourth had none.

Mossley, a former cotton town turned commuter village on the borders of Oldham and Saddleworth, similarly had no Covid cases; neither did the adjacent Micklehurst & Carrbrook census area.

A smaller-scale version of a similar pattern can be seen in Blackburn (where H&D‘s editor used to be a borough councillor).

In Blackburn the highest incidences of Covid this week were again in the mainly Asian areas: 29 in Little Harwood; 22 in Central Blackburn; 19 in Bastwell; 14 in Roe Lee, Brownhill & Sunnybower; and 13 in Audley.

By contrast the mainly White area Meadowhead, where our editor was elected to Blackburn-with-Darwen Council in 2006, had no reported cases.

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