Worryingly high coronavirus infection rates in Merseyside and the North West are behind fears that the lockdown may have come too early in this part of the country.
Yesterday, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and his Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham sent an urgent letter to Boris Johnson expressing fears that for their city regions, the lifting of restrictions may have arrived too soon – and could put more people in danger.
The reason for the fears relate to the worryingly high infection rates that still exist across the North West and in the north of the country in general, which are decreasing at a slower rate than elsewhere in the country.
Public Health Data shows that there have been 5,188 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals across the region.
And as of yesterday's latest update there have been 992 deaths at hospitals trusts covering our region and the surrounding areas.
According to figures seen by the Health Service Journal, hospital admission rate in the North West is falling far more slowly than elsewhere, and has been higher than all other NHS regions for nearly three weeks.
The HSJ data said that the number of new cases in North West hospitals – which means the total number of patients either admitted to hospital with confirmed Covid-19 or testing positive for the virus once in hospital – has been around 175 since the beginning of May, and the rate per 100,000 people just below 20.
While hospital admissions peaked in our region just a few days after London, they have now been running at a consistently higher rate in the capital since April 21.
According to Public Health Data, the Merseyside boroughs of Knowsley, Wirral and St Helens are all in the top twenty in the country for current infection rates.
Office for National Statistics data also shows that many areas in the North West, which suffer with high levels of deprivation, are seeing the highest numbers of 'excess deaths' – meaning fatalities that would not normally be occuring at this time of year.
There are real fears that areas with historic levels of poverty and poor health outcomes – like Merseyside – will continue to suffer disprortiante levels of infections and deaths as lockdown measures are lifted across the country.
These numbers and these concerns are behind the Metro Mayors' joint letter to Boris Johnson – and a request that the local 'R' or infection rates are published for each city region on a daily basis, to help the leaders assess the risks involved.
In their letter, Mayors Rotheram and Burnham said: "Here in the North West, we continued to experience the highest number of new cases last week and are not yet on the clear downward trajectory seen in other parts of the country.
"For that reason, we are concerned that the decision to relax the Stay at Home message may have come too early for the North West and could expose our residents to higher levels of risk of infection.
"Indeed, the Independent Sage Report warns that the changes to the guidance are ‘dangerous’ and that ‘further local COVID-19 epidemics are inevitable."
"We all now have a responsibility to build public confidence and empower people with clear information to make informed choices.
"Given that, and our concern about the heightened risk of spread in the North West, we are writing to ask you to make arrangements to publish as a matter of urgency an up-to-date reproduction ‘R’ number at a regional and sub-regional level on a daily or regular basis.
"We believe this is essential information which will help our residents make informed decisions about the risk and help decide whether they wish to take a more cautious approach to the relaxation of the lockdown rules, given the risk locally.
"By agreeing to this move, we could at least work to help our residents mitigate the risks they might face. It would also reduce the risks of regional or local lockdowns, which we both continue to oppose.
"Given the fast moving pace of the changes that are coming into effect, we ask you for an urgent response."