TWENTY-FOUR residents died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in March - less than a third of February’s death toll.

Despite the number still being worryingly high, it also shows progress in the town after Barnsley shot to the top of the Covid infection rates towards the end of last month.

The town currently has the third-highest death rate in the UK at 319.6 per 100,000 residents, and the third-highest infection rate at 148.7 per 100,000.

Julia Burrows, the town’s director of public health, told the Chronicle: “There are many factors contributing to our Covid-19 positive cases, including our high testing rates and the higher susceptibility of our population to infection and worse outcomes from Covid-19 including the fact that we have so many people in Barnsley who need to leave their house to go to work.

“The key thing we need to look at is the impact of Covid, rather than the positive test rate numbers and how we can keep working together to reduce the harm from this virus.

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“We have seen a reduction in our over 60-year-old rate and fewer hospitalisations.

“This is good news and a real testament to our vaccination programme in Barnsley, and as we vaccinate the 50 to 60 age group we will continue to see these benefits.

“Our younger adult population haven’t yet been vaccinated and are more likely to be out in the community due to work and education.

“The higher numbers of positive results we’ve seen over the past week are primarily in these younger people who we know are at lower risk and less likely to become seriously unwell.”

The vaccination programme in Barnsley is in full swing and more than 100,000 residents have had their first dose of the vaccine - something Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis says is a testament to the ‘remarkable work’ of the NHS.

But he is calling on the government to provide more support for those who are forced to self-isolate after receiving a positive coronavirus test.

“We are seeing good progress across the country with hospitalisation and death rates falling rapidly and the remarkable work of our NHS in rolling out the vaccine,” Dan told the Chronicle.

“However, local rates remain stubbornly high.

“Partly this is because of the nature of our regional economy and partly it’s because the government have failed to provide adequate support for those who have to self-isolate.

“No-one should be left facing the impossible choice of whether to do the right thing by their neighbours and self-isolate or be unable to feed their kids.

“The government should increase the level of self-isolation support and widen the eligibility criteria.

“That would help ensure that we keep to the road out of lockdown.”

With the easing of restrictions this week, Ms Burrows has urged residents to think about their actions and how it may affect those close to you.

“I urge all Barnsley residents to go about their daily lives in the safest way possible,” she added.

“Keep washing or sanitising your hands regularly, wear face coverings in public spaces and keep your distance from people who are not part of your household.

“I ask that whatever the law allows you to do, you should consider the effects of your actions, and keep yourselves and those around you safe.

“Remember it is always much safer to see people outdoors than indoors.”