COVID-19: Winter support package expected for 20 local authorities over coronavirus fears

13 October 2021, 18:08 | Updated: 14 October 2021, 03:01

At least 20 local authorities are expected to receive extra financial support and resources from government to help alleviate pressures over the winter period, Sky News can reveal.

This winter is expected to have an increased impact on the services thanks to COVID-19 and measures are being put in place to try and assist local authorities get through the coming months.

Sky News can reveal that from 22 October, four local authorities including Bolton, Luton, Blackburn with Darwen, and Leicester, will be categorised as areas of "enduring transmission" for coronavirus and will therefore receive a tailored package to support them until potentially March 2022.

The package includes:

• Access to testing capacity and communication support for targeted testing

• Support to plan and maintain public health workforces

• Capacity to support workplaces and businesses to be COVID-secure

• Vaccine programme support

• Data and insight support to help develop what works in the area

Another plan seen by Sky News from the UK Health Security Agency, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the NHS will be in place for a further 16 local authorities from 5 November - although these measures will be evaluated after the first four authorities receive their package.

The 16 areas are: Bradford, Rochdale, Slough, Bristol, Peterborough, Oldham, Sandwell, Kirklees, Preston, Hartlepool, Tameside, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Ealing, Manchester and Hyndburn.

All the areas highlighted for support have high levels of deprivation and some of the lowest levels of vaccine uptake in the country. Twelve of the 20 areas are in the north of England, with eight in the North West.

In the government's COVID-19 framework, which was last updated on 7 October, ministers describe areas with "enduring transmission" as being "linked to long-standing patterns of deprivation and health inequalities".

Historically, many of these areas have been some of the hardest hit by coronavirus in the country.

Bolton was adversely impacted by the Delta variant when it first began spreading in the country, causing it to become one of the country's virus hotspots earlier this year.

Blackburn with Darwen was also identified as an area with concerning case numbers in May.

It comes as new figures found that life expectancy in many communities, particularly in the North, was falling even before the arrival of the pandemic.

People in some northern communities in England have a lower life expectancy of as much as 27 years compared with those living in London and its surrounding counties, according to data from Imperial College London.

Despite the announcement, concerns remain about how services will cope over the coming months.

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One local health lead told Sky News: "These measures are a drop in the ocean, they won't even touch the sides.

"We have experienced unbelievable hardship over the last 18 months and the winter is going to crush us even more."

They added: "The pressures over winter are going to be brutal so we have to accept any help and support being offered."

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary and MP for Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth said: "Why wait until 22 October? We need this extra help now, not in nine days?

"It's half term next week in Leicester we need help to get more adolescents vaccinated. They should be allowed to go to walk in centres through half term for example."