More people are in hospital with coronavirus in the north-west of England than in London, as regional differences in the spread and peak of the pandemic become increasingly apparent.

Latest figures show 2,033 people in London hospitals compared to 2,191 in the north-west, where the peak for hospitalisation appears to have been on 13 April, compared to 8 April in the capital.

The UK government has said that these five tests have to be met before they will consider easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions:

The north-west, including Manchester and Liverpool, has had a far less steep tail-off of the virus’ curve compared to London, which bore the brunt in the early weeks of the pandemic.

It comes amid concerns over deep inequalities in the toll of the virus, with the Office for National Statistics revealing on Friday that those living in the poorest parts of England and Wales were dying at twice the rate of those in the richest areas.

Suggestions that the easing of lockdown could happen on a local basis were bolstered by Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, on Sunday as he told the daily press briefing that the government might phase in measures and then pause or reintroduce restrictions to help local areas cope with the disease.

Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, described the north-west hospitalisation figures as a tragedy but said they were to be expected owing to years of austerity and funding cuts to local NHS services.

Anderson, whose wife works as a care assistant, said: “This is not a coincidence. I have been saying for the past 10 years that the high levels of poverty and deprivation in my city coupled with cuts to our NHS services will and has led to higher mortality rates.

“The fact that we have now been swamped by this crisis is making it abundantly clear that there are scandalous disparities within our country and the way in which people are living and the services that they have access to.

“In Liverpool there are high rates of obesity, there is an elderly population, many people have problems with mobility – it will be these people who will be hit hardest by this virus.”

Salford in Greater Manchester has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the country, with 174 deaths as of Friday, amounting to 93 for every 100,000 people. A particular hotspot in the borough is the area of Higher Broughton and Broughton Park, where 28 have died.

Broughton is one of the most deprived wards in Salford, with the lowest life expectancy and highest unemployment rate in the city. Male life expectancy there has decreased in recent years and is now just 71.6, blamed on high levels of smoking and alcohol consumption, causing lung cancer and heart disease

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “These figures underline the need for a safety-first approach as we move forward. It’s becoming clear that the harm caused by the virus has been greatest in the most deprived communities. The government needs to recognise that and fund councils across the north-west accordingly.”

Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, presented the figures at the press briefing, but focused his analysis on the story it told for London.

He said: “This is a mild disease for the vast majority of people but unfortunately for some, hospital admission is required. You can see the peak of hospital admissions has now passed, particularly in London, where we saw the steepest rise and we have now started to see the steepest fall.

“Since the middle of April, we have begun to see a decline in the overall number of people in hospital and that again is evidence the transmission rate of the virus is falling.”

Over the last week the number of people with Covid-19 in UK hospitals has fallen from 16,395 to 14,220, a fall of 13%.

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