London area has ‘one of highest COVID rates in world’ with two in three infected with virus

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·3-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A man walks past a pair of telephone boxes in Stamford Hill on the evening of the Jewish holiday of Passover on April 8, 2020 in London, England. The Jewish community is preparing to celebrate Passover amid COVID-19 home isolation and social distancing measures. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
A man walks past a pair of telephone boxes in Stamford Hill on the evening of the Jewish holiday of Passover on April 8, 2020 in London, England. (Getty Images)

An area of London has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the world, according to new research.

The Orthodox Jewish Community in Stamford Hill has been hit by one of the highest reported rates globally since the pandemic began, the study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found.

Among the 15,000 people, 64% of the community have tested positive, as have 75% of working age adults, the report says.

This compares to just 7% of the UK’s population as a whole and 11% in London, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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Dr Michael Marks, who co-authored the research, said: “The rates we observed are among the highest reported anywhere in the world to date.”

He added that only a handful of studies have demonstrated similar rates, one being Manaus in Brazil - a city where a huge proportion of the population have had the virus.

Community leaders are reportedly urging people to observe social distancing rules during the the Jewish festival of Purim this week, which mark Jews escaping persecution in Persia 2,000 years ago.

It comes amid concerns that the celebrations could spark a new spike in infections.

Chaya Spitz, who runs the Interlink Foundation, an umbrella group for Jewish charities, is sending every household English and Yiddish guidance to drink and feast safely at this year’s festival on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 February, according to the Sunday Times.

She said the community may have been affected so badly for similar reasons that have blighted other ethnic groups, including multi-generational households, poverty and a higher incidence of pre-existing health conditions.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A billboard thank NHS staff in Stamford Hill on the evening of the Jewish holiday of Passover on April 8, 2020 in London, England. The Jewish community is preparing to celebrate Passover amid COVID-19 home isolation and social distancing measures. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
A billboard thank NHS staff in Stamford Hill on the evening of the Jewish holiday of Passover. (Getty Images)

But the researchers says it's not exactly clear why the rates are so high.

Marks said: “Our work has revealed the extremely high rates of infection in this very interconnected population. Working in tandem with the community we are conducting further work to understand the potential factors involved."

Richard Ferrer, the editor of Jewish News, a community newspaper, also told the publication that adapting to social distancing had been difficult for the Orthodox community.

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He said: “They are effectively being told to stop living. For them, these things are ordained by God and the very essence of life itself.”

While community leaders say most are sticking to the rules, some weddings and gatherings have taken place during lockdown.

In January, a wedding with hundreds of guests took place at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, a strictly Orthodox Charedi Jewish school in Stamford Hill.

Watch: Wedding with 400 guests discovered at north London school.