Covid-19 lockdowns in England’s racially ‘enriched’ areas

Tonight lockdown measures were suddenly reintroduced across large areas of northern England, where from midnight residents will be banned from any indoor meetings with people outside their immediate household. This will include pubs and restaurants, making the survival of some businesses very doubtful.

The government’s new rules were published just a few minutes before they came into effect at midnight.

Detailed examination of Covid-19 statistics that have led to this new lockdown show that as in Leicester, where the virus made its first big comeback, the areas concerned are predominantly those with very high Pakistani or Bangladeshi populations.

Yet the lockdown has been imposed across a vastly greater area, including many predominantly White districts where there is little or no sign of a Covid-19 resurgence.

The new measures will affect the whole of Greater Manchester; plus the East Lancashire boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, and Rossendale; plus the West Yorkshire metropolitan boroughs of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees; plus the city of Leicester.

Aside from Leicester, the vast area affected is broadly identical to the trans-Pennine region that saw the BNP’s major electoral advances almost twenty years ago. And the two phenomena – strong BNP votes in the early 2000s and a Covid-19 spike in 2020 – are of course related.

The common factor is that both were influenced by very high Asian populations, the behaviour of that particular minority and reactions to that behaviour.

Oldham – former cotton capital of the world, now one of the main Covid-19 hotspots

The statistics speak for themselves, to anyone who knows the racial geography of these areas (as the H&D team know very well). A detailed official map issued this morning gives a breakdown of confirmed new Covid-19 cases within the past week (20th-26th July), listed not merely by town but by much more detailed census areas within each town.

The much publicised Oldham outbreak featured Alexandra Park (22 new cases): this is the Glodwick area, one of the main Asian ghettos. Other hot spots included Chadderton SE (18); Werneth (16); Oldham Town South (10) and Busk – one of the original Bangladeshi areas in the Coldhurst council ward – (9). Also a scattering in several other Oldham areas.

But nothing (or below 3 anyway so not published) in the White working class Derker, Moorside & Sholver, or Alt areas of Oldham – once BNP strongholds. Perhaps a beneficial side-effect of Oldham’s notorious divisions.

In Rochdale, another very Asian area is the highlight: Wardleworth & Newbold Brow, with 21 new cases.

In Preston where H&D is based the outbreak is not as bad, and the city is not yet under lockdown, but those parts of Preston with most Covid cases are again Asian areas: notably St George’s (which includes some of the Deepdale area near Preston’s football ground) with 10 new cases in the past week. An exception is the mainly White working-class Brookfield & Holme Slack area (6 new cases).

The Jaame Masjid, Blackburn’s central mosque, in the Audley district that has seen a Covid-19 spike

Meanwhile in Blackburn with Darwen, where H&D editor Mark Cotterill was once a borough councillor and which is now under renewed lockdown, the worst hit areas are the very Asian Bastwell (23); Audley (18); and Central Blackburn (18).

It does seem likely that certain communities that have strong extended-family traditions, and might have held events, are leading to these latest outbreaks. In this context look at London, where there is very little in most White areas, and by Oldham/Blackburn standards no longer very much even in Asian areas, but Week 30’s highlights included Stamford Hill North (10 new cases); and Stamford Hill West (9 new cases), plus a scattering in other parts of Hackney.

It seems very likely that these are related to the Orthodox Jewish community which is particularly numerous in these areas; just as almost all the other outbreaks are related to areas with large Pakistani or Bangladeshi Muslim populations.

Today’s panic measure by the government is probably related to this weekend’s important Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Community leaders and local councils had already cancelled large public events, but there would certainly have been large, indoor, extended-family events in many of the areas now subject to a ban.

The question is whether at such short notice the ban will be communicated in time throughout areas where English might only be spoken at a very basic level, if at all.

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