Up to 40 per cent of deaths in Blackpool were Covid 19 related during the worst of the pandemic, a new report has revealed.
At the height of the death toll, the council’s Bereavement Service was holding 16 funerals a day over six days of the week.
The biggest risk factor was age, with those living in the most deprived areas of the resort also most likely to be seriously ill.
The data is set out in the latest Public Health Annual Report for Blackpool, covering March 2020 to March 2021. During that time there were 473 Covid related deaths among residents of the town.
But in his report the town’s director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura also highlights the way the town responded to the challenge, and the success of the vaccination programme.
He says the pandemic has “been an enormously difficult time for the people of Blackpool and the country as a whole.
“Loved ones have been lost to Covid 19, people have experienced serious illness and many are now living with the effects of long Covid.”
But he adds many people had worked “exceptionally hard” to support the town’s response to the crisis.
Dr Rajpura says: “Everybody has had their life impacted due to the restrictions imposed during this unprecedented year and the people of Blackpool have risen to these many challenges and pulled together to support one another.”
The report shows in the weeks with the highest mortality, Covid related deaths accounted for up to 25 per cent to 40 per cent of all deaths occurring among Blackpool residents.
These peaks were in April and October 2020, and January and February this year.
The report says the disease “has not impacted all communities and demographic cohorts equally.
“The most important risk factor, in terms of severity of disease, risk of hospital admission and death, is age.
“If infected with Covid 19, the risk of mortality in those aged over 75 is estimated to be over 1,000 times higher than those aged 15-24, for example.”
Overall there were 129 Covid related deaths in Blackpool care homes up to the end of March 2021, just over a quarter (27 per cent ) of all deaths from Covid.
The report says: “Sadly care homes have experienced many deaths in their residents and care staff have faced extremely difficult times.”
Other risk factors show higher rates of hospital admission and mortality have occurred in males and also in more deprived communities.
At the peak of the first wave in April 2020, 144 hospital beds at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust were occupied by Covid patients and more than 100 new cases were reported in a one week period.
The number of beds occupied by Covid patients reached a peak of 205 on October 25 2020.
But the report says schools coped “extremely well” during the pandemic and “largely remained open throughout the whole of this period, with isolated instances of closure, mostly in primary schools.”
Minimising transmission was the priority with the formation of pupil ‘bubbles’ and provision of extensive testing.
As the vaccine began to be rolled out, take-up was strong with more than 90 per cent of over 50s having had at least one dose.
But those living in deprived areas are less likely to have had the vaccine, with a take up rate of just over 86 per cent compared to nearly 92 per cent among the town’s most affluent residents.
The report warns: “Lower vaccine uptake is heavily concentrated in the centre of the town and is associated with existing disadvantage, such as the concentration of houses in multiple occupation and social isolation.
“Analysis has also identified lower uptake in males than females and although Blackpool has relatively very small BAME populations, the uptake is lower in Black and Asian ethnic categories.
“Vaccine uptake also drops consistently in younger ages.
“Through the second half of 2021, Blackpool Council and the NHS will encourage vaccination uptake through campaigns, recall, working with employers and community engagement, to increase vaccination uptake as much as possible and reduce inequality in vaccination uptake between different communities.”
Ahead of the coming winter steps will also be taken to encourage people to have Covid boosters and get a flu vaccination.
Enforcement teams have also played a role in controlling the virus with 11 improvement notices served on non-compliant businesses with barbers, arcades, smaller retailers and a number of licensed premises among the culprits.
A massage parlour was also served with a prohibition notice for Covid breaches.
Problems in general “included a lack of social distancing, staff and customers not wearing masks, insufficient cleaning and disinfection of premises, a lack of contact tracing information, and bigger group sizes than permitted.”