Residents in one of Lancashire’s worst-hit areas for coronavirus infection rates are being urged to get tested with one councillor arguing that the vaccine should be compulsory.
Many parts of Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Hyndburn, Rossendale and Preston continue to have the highest rates in the country.
In Darwen East, which roughly covers the area between the A666 and Pot House between the M65 junction and Sudell Road, 72 cases were recorded over the last seven days, leaving the area with a rate of 1,260.5. The average rate for England is 63.9.
In response health officials have opened a new pop-up testing base outside Darwen Market, alongside the walk-in centre on the car park at Darwen Railway Station.
Darwen East Councillor Paul Browne said door-to-door testing was also due to be launched in a bid to curb the worrying trend.
The Lib-Dem councillor of 45 years said: “I have been out and about, knocking on doors and speaking to people, and there is still this perception that the vaccine isn’t safe and they believe these conspiracy theories.
“I have spoken to people who say they won’t get the vaccine and what they don’t realise is that not only are they putting themselves at risk but they’re also putting the rest of society at risk.”
In March the Office for National Statistics revealed vaccination rates differ by religious affiliation with the lowest rates among those who identified as Muslim (72.3 per cent) or Buddhist (78.1 per cent), and lower rates also observed among those identifying as Sikh (87.0 per cent) and Hindu (87.1 per cent).
The figures for people identifying as Jewish and Christian were 88.8 per cent and 91.1 per cent respectively.
Differences in geography, socio-demographic factors and underlying health conditions do not fully explain the lower vaccination rates among ethnic minority groups, the ONS found.
Mosques and the Imams National Advisory Board urged worshippers to dismiss rumours, myths and “fake news” about the jabs and say: “It is our ethical duty to protect ourselves and others from harm.”
Cllr Browne, who has had both doses of the vaccine, holds the controversial belief, as do others, that vaccinations should be compulsory.
Although the possibility of enforced vaccination is highly unlikely within the wider community, last month vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the measure is being considered in the NHS to help stop the virus spreading in hospitals.
Cllr Browne said: “I do think it should be compulsory. Also, it’s worrying how many people you see not wearing masks.
“I see so many people, from all walks of life, not wearing them. And you see a lot of discarded masks on the ground.
“I just hope that all these extra measures being taken locally put a stop to this worrying rise in infection rates in Darwen.”
Darwen resident Richard Fish, of Sudellside Street in the Darwen East ward, said he had noticed a decline in people taking steps to protect themselves and others, particularly among his generation.
The 39-year-old said: “People do seem to have had enough of the restrictions and you do get why that is; this has been going on for so long, but if everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they’re able to then hopefully we’ll see the rate dropping.”
Darwen and Rossendale MP Jake Berry urged his constituents to get tested, even if they do not have any symptoms, and to get vaccinated.
“Darwen has been allocated additional resources including extra vaccines as well as more support for surge testing. If you are over 18 and eligible, book your vaccine today,” he told LancsLive.
“The new mobile testing unit will be remain in Darwen Market Square, 7 days a weeks from 10am until 4pm. until at least June 27 and I would encourage everyone in Darwen to help play their part in defeating this new variant of the virus by getting tested."
Darwen business owner Paul Singleton, who owns bar services firm InnVictus, has had his first vaccination.
“It is worrying that rates are so high in Darwen,” he said.
“It makes you more cautious when you go out, particularly in my job where I have to visit lots of different pubs and venues, but it’s reassuring to see that they’re doing more locally to try and put a stop to it.”
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