Small neighbourhood has country’s ninth highest virus death rate

A small neighbourhood in our region now has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the country, new figures have revealed.

Halton Lea and Brookvale, which mainly covers the Palacefields area, has suffered 33 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of March, more than anywhere else in the city region.

While other neighbourhoods saw the number of deaths decrease significantly last month, Palacefields recorded another seven deaths according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.

With Halton as a whole recording only 19 deaths last month, this meant the small part of Runcorn accounted for more than a third of the borough’s coronavirus deaths in June.

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The grim toll means that Halton Lea and Brookvale’s coronavirus mortality rate has shot up to 457.4 deaths per 100,000 residents – the ninth highest rate in England and Wales.

The reasons for Halton Lea and Brookvale’s shockingly high mortality rate are still not clear, although it has been one of the worst-affected parts of the city region for months.

One theory is that the presence of two large care homes – privately run Beechcroft and the council-owned St Luke’s – has played a significant role.

Local councillor Dave Thompson has previously suggested that this was the case, saying the national care crisis was “a real local concern” and described the government as “negligent” for not responding sooner.

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However, while Beechcroft’s owner HC-One has previously confirmed that the care home did suffer an outbreak of coronavirus in which some residents died, the company told the ECHO in June that the care home was “in recovery”.

Despite this, Halton Lea and Brookvale still recorded the highest number of deaths of any city region neighbourhood in June alone.

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Another factor in Palacefields’ high death rate could be its high levels of deprivation, which has been linked to higher death tolls from coronavirus.

More than half of the area’s population live in the country's most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods, and Halton Lea has some of the borough’s worst rates for unemployment and children on free school meals.

In the city region as a whole, most areas that had previously recorded high death rates saw fatalities decline significantly in June.

Knotty Ash, the area with the second-highest mortality rate, recorded only one death in June while Aigburth and Grassendale, which previously had the highest absolute death toll, recorded none.