THE latest official figures reporting that Cumbria has one of the highest infection rates for COVID-19 in the country (440.2 per 100,000 people) are gravely concerning.

Despite the lockdown measures, people are still being infected and dying in Cumbria on a daily basis.

Not only does this mean that we are suffering from a disproportionate amount of serious cases and deaths but also that, as a consequence, gradual easing of lockdown measures may be affected – prolonging the hurt caused to our local economy, particularly with its dependence on tourism.

We need to start asking why.

As with so many things, the answer is multifactorial in explanation and we should certainly take into account higher rates of testing in the region.

Cumbria itself has a slightly older population on average than the rest of the UK while, troublingly, the wider North West region is also tied with the North East for the highest number of adults who are physically inactive.

Further to this, the Office for National Statistics has linked COVID-19 death rates to the affluency of an area. According to its figures, residents in deprived areas have experienced double the death rates of those in affluent areas (55.1 deaths per 100,000 people vs. 25.3 deaths per 100,000). Cumbria has 29 communities that rank within the 10 per cent most deprived of areas in England.

COVID-19 has shone a light on the health inequalities across the UK. What we need now is action from the Government to close this gap and reduce the vulnerability of people in Cumbria to many medical conditions and, indeed, any future viruses.

Dr Thomas Kane

BMA North West Regional Council Chair