Dr Jane Greatorex, Lucy’s Senior Tutor and virologist, explains why infection rates vary
Cambridgeshire is split when it comes to covid infections. Peterborough and Fenland have amongst the highest rates in the UK, 133 cases per 100,000 people and yet South Cambridgeshire, East Cambridgeshire and Cambridge are among the lowest in the country with only 27 cases per 100,000. The speed at which these rates are dropping are also very different - Peterborough has dropped 5% in its infection rates in the last week and yet Cambridge has dropped more than 50% in the last week.
In order for us to learn how to control virus spread, we need to understand why this is happening. What behaviours are at play here?
The causes are multi-factorial but differences in infection rates are often linked to socio-economic conditions - differences in the population and employment. An area like Peterborough is densely populated, busy and many of the residents are working in shops, factories and on farms, with a lot of face-to-face interaction. Poor housing and multiple occupancies in properties leading to overcrowding also play a factor. Peterborough has a very mobile population as well, with a lot of moving around between rented properties.
An important question is why are there differences in adherence to the Government guidance? One of the studies carried out by the government in the first lockdown showed that perception of effectiveness has a huge impact.
Dr Jane Greatorex, speaking on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's breakfast programme, explains that one of the key reasons is the public’s perception of the regulations. So, for example, in an area like Cambridge where levels have dropped over 50% in the last week, to only 27 cases per 1000,000 people, the local population can see that the current restrictions have been effective, so they are more likely to continue adhering to the guidelines. However, in an area like Peterborough, where we’ve seen levels only fall by 5% in the last week, the public’s perception is that the policies and guidelines have been ineffective, so there is little point in adhering.
You can listen to the full broadcast here - Dr Jane Greatorex speaking at 2:08 in the recording