Chief blasts Government for 'mixed messages' after figures show Sunderland among hardest hit by virus

Wearside’s health chief has accused the government of ‘mixed messages’ as new figures appeared to confirm Sunderland is one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 1:00 pm

The latest report on the coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the groups, communities and workers most likely to be affected.

And according to this, the city has been among the highest rates of infections and deaths, well above the average rates for both the North East and England as a whole.

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File image of live samples in a container at a testing lab. Picture by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

“The line from the government is so confused on things like lockdown, on what is acceptable and what is not,” said Coun Geoff Walker, the Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for health and social care.

“Some people, in some cases, are just not observing social distancing guidelines, perhaps because there’s so many mixed messages coming from the government.

“And it’s not been helped by Dominic Cummings travelling 260 miles.

“The mixed messages are confusing the public and are just not helpful.”

Councillor Geoff Walker

The COVID ‘disparities’ report, by Public Health England (PHE), was released on June 2 as the government pushed ahead with plans to ease lockdown measures.

This has included returning primary pupils to schools, allowing groups of up to six people to meet outside and the reopening of some businesses, such as McDonalds.

The PHE data showed Sunderland was second only to Middlesbrough in the North East for rates of coronavirus infections, deaths linked to COVID-19 and deaths of confirmed virus cases.

According to the report: “People who live in deprived areas have higher diagnosis rates and death rates than those living in less deprived areas.

“The mortality rates from COVID-19 in the most deprived areas were more than double the least deprived areas, for both males and females.

“This is greater than the inequality seen in mortality rates in previous years, indicating greater inequality in death rates from COVID-19.

“High diagnosis rates may be due to geographic proximity to infections or a high proportion of workers in occupations that are more likely to be exposed.

“Poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection in deprived areas remain after adjusting for age, sex, region and ethnicity, but the role of comorbidities requires further investigation.”

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