A LOCAL authority which has become one of the country’s first to see all its care home residents given the Covid vaccination has defended its efforts to combat the spread of the virus in communities.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council saw its leadership face questions as official figures emerged showing between March and November Covid had killed 43 people in Bank Top ward alone, almost a third of the total deaths across Darlington borough.

The meeting heard over the period the borough had seen 140 deaths and there had been far fewer fatalities in other areas of the town which shared characteristics such as deprivation levels with Bank Top.

Councillors were told over the same period saw four deaths due to Covid in both the Park East and Firthmoor areas and 11 deaths in Albert Hill and Red Hall.

Bank Top councillor Wendy Newall asked for an explanation as to why her ward had seen so many Covid victims.

The authority’s health and housing cabinet member, Councillor Kevin Nicholson, said Cllr Newall was right to raise concerns, but even the Government’s chief medical officer remained unsure as to why some communities had been affected more than others.

Cllr Nicholson told the meeting different wards were not directly comparable due to factors such as population sizes and he highlighted how Bank Top was more densely populated and had more than 200 more residents aged over 65 than Eastbourne ward.

He said Bank Top ward had some six nursing homes and there were also 250 more single person households in that ward than Eastbourne, increasing the chances for the virus to spread if those residents formed bubbles, and double the number of people searching for work and with respiratory illnesses.

Cllr Nicholson said: “All of these things of which the Government has loosely said could be a factor in people contracting Covid-19 and subsequently tragically dying.”

He said as a result of the council’s actions, such as close monitoring of outbreaks and testing people without symptoms, the borough had the lowest Covid death rates in the North-East and had turned around the high death rate the Bank Top ward had seen during the autumn.