Businesses and religious leaders in Derby’s ‘virus epicentre’ help spread safety message

The Rose Hill area of Derby has become the epicentre of Covid-19 in the city, resulting in the council trying to recruit businesses and religious leaders to help spread a safety message.

Government data shows that the area defined as Rose Hill and Castleward – based on grouping a population size of 7,500 people – has had more Covid-19 cases in a week than anywhere else in Derbyshire.

In new data, for the week to January 8, Rose Hill and Castleward clocked 147 cases, with a rate of 1,240 per 100,000 people.

Its closest rival is bordering New Normanton with 106 cases (27 per cent fewer), followed by Sinfin with 88 (40 per cent fewer).

For further comparison, the Bakewell North, Baslow and Calver area has recorded six cases in the same week, the Melbourne, Ticknall and Hartshorne area has recorded 12 cases and Belper Far Laund has recorded 16.

Derby as a whole has recorded 1,706 new Covid-19 cases in the week to January 9, pushing it to record highs and leaving the city with nearly the highest infection rates in the East Midlands (663 cases per 100,000 people) – higher than in Leicester (570) and Nottingham (495).

Arboretum Park is at the heart of the ward, which covers parts of the city centre as well as Rose Hill and Pear Tree

Derby City Council was asked if it was aware of what appears to be a particular issue in Rose Hill and Castleward and if so, if anything was being done to help bring down the number of infections.

Dr Robyn Dewis, the authority’s director of public health, said: “We are aware and concerned by the increase in cases throughout the city and that in some areas rates have increased faster than others.

“Throughout the pandemic we have aimed to tailor our approaches to local areas, and we continue to work with the communities to address more specific challenges.

“To ensure Covid cases are identified early, we are also communicating accessibility of Covid-19 testing in the area (at Morleston Street Day Centre) and also support available through grants for self-isolation, if needed following a positive test result.

“In consultation with our public and environmental health teams, businesses in the Rose Hill and Castleward area are bolstering their Covid-19 protocols and religious leaders are providing advice and guidance to their congregations about staying safe and following Covid-19 guidance.

“We have sincerely welcomed the commitment of the community in working together to try and bring these numbers down.”

Business owners in the area, for the most part, felt that residents in Rose Hill and Castleward were not following Covid guidance as well as they had been in previous lockdowns, which they put down to fatigue as well as some selfishness.

An employee at Play Corner Day Nursery in Sale Street told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I think there is an issue and I don’t think people are taking it seriously enough.

“The fact the numbers are growing speaks for itself. I don’t think people quite understand the severity of it. The damage is done now.

“I think there is a bit of selfishness because people are used to hanging around neighbours and cousins, they’re friends and other relatives and people can’t change from what they are used to.

The Derby Jamia Mosque, in Rose Hill Street, is a core community focal point for the Rose Hill area

“Everyone knows everybody and you just can’t help yourself. Also with the guidance changing all the time it doesn’t help. It mixes things up. The one-metre distance rule complicated things and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

“We’ve been doing alright, we stay inside as much as often and only go out for shopping. The children don’t go out and my partner only goes out for shopping and such, too.”

Ahmed Mushi, who works at Sunshine Supermarket in Cambridge Street, said that people had been following Covid guidance while in the shop and that services at the area’s mosques had been well-managed.

He said: “I’ve been struggling and I think everyone is very stressed with the situation at the minute.”

Zain, a technician at Rose Hill Pharmacy in Normanton Road, said: “There are a lot of people walking around, quite a bit more than in the other lockdowns. I think people just are not scared anymore and they are going on with their normal lives. There is obviously an issue.

“We ask people to wear masks when they come in, but not all do, and we have restricted the number of people that can come in at once to three people.”

Zeeshan Ali, shopkeeper at Nafees Bakers in Normanton Road, said: “We have been doing everything to follow all of the Government guidance and if everyone can wear masks and social distance, hopefully that will be enough.”

Adam Ali, a shop assistant at Pak Foods in Normanton Road, said: “I haven’t met anyone personally who has had it (Covid-19) but you get a lot of customers saying ‘oh yeah this person had it, that person has it’ or ‘this family has it’, I’ve been seeing people talking about it quite a lot on Facebook.

“I don’t think people really care about it anymore, I’m not going to lie to you.

“Some people do take that extra care.There are the odd people who you ask to wear a mask or keep two metres distance and they’ll have a go at you.

“People aren’t caring as much about it. People at the start were following normal rules but no you sometimes get some stupid answers back. I’m just trying to help them keep themselves and keep other people safe.

“You’ve got to do the best you can for the people around you.”

We spoke to businesses in the area, including several in Normanton Road
(Image: Google)

In August, when Rose Hill and Castleward had once again been a hotspot for Covid, Cllr Gulfraz Nawaz, who represents the local Arboretum ward, said the influx in cases may be caused by population size and residents’ domestic situations – such as living with a larger extended family.

Cllr Nawaz had said “there is also an economic factor” which plays into the number of coronavirus infections in the Rose Hill area, where residents may be less wealthy and do jobs where they cannot work from home.

He also pointed towards the larger number of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs or bedsits) in the area, with more people living in close proximity in one building.

Nationally, studies by the Office for National Statistics have found that more deprived areas are those which are hit harder by the pandemic, with significantly higher mortality rates.

Fareed Hussain, another Arboretum ward councillor, said there is a high proportion of key workers in the area, including care workers, nurses, taxi drivers and bus drivers who are more vulnerable to infection.

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