Salford: how Covid cases have been suppressed in a historic hotspot

How a targeted vaccination programme has reached new parts of the Salford community.

Throughout the pandemic, one neighbourhood in Salford has consistently had a high infection rate – but now Covid cases have come down considerably.

There have been no more than 10 cases confirmed in Broughton Park in any single week since March – and in some weeks there were fewer than three.

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The neighbourhood, which is home to the Orthodox Jewish community, had the lowest infection rate in Greater Manchester as of Sunday, August 29.

It comes as hundreds of Covid cases are confirmed in Salford every week.

Public health officials say the infection rate has ‘plateaued’ for the last two months – but it remains at a relatively high level and could rise this winter.

However, in Broughton Park, the number of Covid cases has stayed low.

The bustling streets of Higher Broughton were filled with people doing their last minute shopping before the Sabbath this Friday afternoon (September 3).

Shoppers say there has been a noticeable decline in the number of people they know catching Covid.

One shopper called Shmuel said: “At the beginning it was terrible. We saw quite a lot of deaths unfortunately. But now, for almost a year it’s been very low.”

Some have speculated that this decline could be due to ‘herd immunity’ – but a Salford council spokesperson said there is no evidence to support this claim.

Vaccines have no doubt helped keep Covid cases down in Broughton Park too.

The uptake of vaccines in Broughton Park has been lower than the average in Salford with 60 pc receiving their first jab and 53.2 pc having had their second.

But the rollout of the vaccine in this community has been hailed as a success.

Vaccination events specifically targeted the Orthodox Jewish community, with adverts and information in Yiddish – but translations alone were not enough.

Hatzola Manchester, an ambulance service operated by the Orthodox Jewish community, has run the regular vaccination clinics over the last few months.

How many people have been reached?

So far, the organisation has vaccinated thousands of people in the community.

Aron Merlin, who has helped organise these events, has said the secret to this success of the rollout is that Hatzola is part of the local Jewish community.

He said: “It shows the way to get through to the community is through people like us. As soon as we were involved, people were happy to [be vaccinated].

“We just speak their language.”

Hatzola started holding large vaccination events at local schools earlier this year and later started vaccinating people from its main base in Broom Lane.

The vaccination hubs, which are managed in partnership with Salford clinical commissioning group (CCG), have been held around twice a week since then.

What has the reaction to the hubs been?

Kersal and Broughton park councillor Ari Leitner, who has helped to coordinate the Hatzola clinics, said the council was ‘struggling to tap into the community’.

He said: “With traditionally large households having numerous schoolchildren, Broughton Park’s Orthodox Jewish community was a priority for vaccinations.

“Officers at the council have relayed to me that the majority of those who came forward to be vaccinated, are in the ‘hardest to reach’ groups.

One of the clinics Credit: M Dansky

“I commend Salford city council and their partners for trusting Hatzolah, who understand the community and their requirements, and allowing them to plan these drives in such a way that they saw fit for the community.

“The cooperation has been remarkable and I look forward to working together on further projects in the future.”

Deputy city mayor and lead member for adult services, health and wellbeing, councillor John Merry said the NHS and the council have worked close with a range of community organisations and groups to engage with communities.

This includes encouraging continued rapid and PCR testing, promoting vaccination and distributing information on reducing the risk of infection.

The Labour councillor, who represents Broughton, thanked Jewish community groups for all their ‘hard work’ and efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

But he had a warning for the communities where Covid cases have dropped.

He said: “Infection rates can change suddenly and we don’t want to see Covid-19 take hold in this or any other area of Salford.

“We would urge everyone to continue to be cautious and get both doses of the vaccine as soon as possible.”