‘Double whammy’ Covid threat in poorer areas, warns Labour

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Labour is calling on ministers to sharpen the focus of the Covid vaccination campaign on poorer areas of England that are undergoing a “double whammy” of high infection rates and low take-up of jabs.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told The Independent that “alarm bells” should be ringing in government about disadvantaged areas that have suffered some of the most entrenched outbreaks of coronavirus and may now be slower than other parts of the country in emerging from the pandemic.

Speaking as the anniversary of the first lockdown approached, Mr Ashworth said the problem reflected a pattern of “complacency and inept decision-making” from Boris Johnson’s government throughout the crisis and threatened the prime minister’s declared agenda of “levelling up” less well-off areas.

Among the relatively high-infection, low-vaccination areas identified by Labour were northern towns like Oldham, where, according to the latest figures, just 69 per cent of over-55s have had the jab, compared to 85 per cent across England as a whole, while infections remain at 101 per 100,000, against a national rate of 59.

Other locations on the list included “red wall” constituencies lost by Labour to the Tories in the 2019 election, such as Darlington (79 per cent vaccination of over-55s, 112 infections per 100,000), Wakefield (75 per cent and 133) and Stockton (80 per cent and 116).

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