Bolton and Corby are likely to remain coronavirus hotspots for weeks, according to a new interactive map which aims to predict local outbreaks in England and Wales.
The map, created by researchers at Imperial College London, shows the places where cases are rising and predicts whether they could become hotspots in the next few weeks to encourage local authorities to take action before it is too late.
The data suggests Breckland, Norfolk, could become a high-risk area in a fortnight, while infections will remain high in Bolton in Greater Manchester, Rossendale in Lancashire and Leeds in West Yorkshire.
Bolton was this week ordered to remain in a local lockdown following another U-turn by Boris Johnson’s government.
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Other places where infections are expected to remain high include South Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, and Pendle, Lancashire.
The researchers say the current hotspots include Pendle, Bolton, Corby in Northamptonshire and Oldham in Greater Manchester.
Bolton and Corby are likely to remain hotspots for the next couple of weeks, and the probability of the reproduction number, or R number, being over one in these local authorities is 98% and 94%, respectively, the research found.
Cases are decreasing in Oldham, and it is unlikely to remain a hotspot.
The researchers define a hotspot as a local authority where there are more than 50 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of the population per week.
Their map uses figures on daily and weekly reported deaths and mathematical modelling to calculate the probability that a local authority will become a hotspot in the following week.
It also gives estimates on whether cases are likely to increase or decrease, and the probability of the R number being greater than one.
If it is higher than one it indicates an outbreak is out of control and cases will continue to increase.
The predictions are based on the current government measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, and each local authority is treated independently of its neighbours in the modelling.
An increase in cases in a local authority can be due to a rise in testing, which the model does not account for, the researchers said.
It also does not take demographic factors into consideration.
Lead researcher Professor Axel Gandy, from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial, said: “The model allows us to project where local hotspots of Covid-19 are likely to develop in England and Wales based on the trends that we’re seeing in those areas.
“Covid-19 is, unfortunately, very much still with us, but we hope this will be a useful tool for local and national governments trying to bring hotspots under control.”
Dr Swapnil Mishra, from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said: “We provide weekly predictions of the evolution of Covid-19 at the local authority level in England and Wales.
“Our model helps to identify hotspots – probable local areas of concern. We hope that our estimates will enable swift action at the local level to control the spread of the epidemic.”