New figures show that areas of Cumbria have some of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the country, as leading health experts call for ‘questions to be asked’ about why the county has been so badly affected.

An investigation based on new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that Carlisle, South Lakeland and Barrow have some of the highest rates of death from coronavirus across England and Wales.

This comes as Dr Thomas Kane, the north west regional chairman for the British Medical Association, said it is ‘time to start asking why’ Cumbria is experiencing disproportionately high rates of death and infection from Covid-19.

Dr Kane said that while a number of reasons will likely be playing a part, the established link between higher rates of death from Covid-19 and higher levels of deprivation in an area must be urgently explored.

“The Office for National Statistics has linked Covid-19 death rates to the affluence of an area,” he said.

“According to its figures, residents in deprived areas have experienced double the death rates of those in affluent areas.

“Cumbria has 29 communities that rank within the 10 per cent most deprived of areas in England.

"As more data is published across the country about the impact of Covid-19, we are starting to see the impact it is having on vulnerable communities."

Cumbria’s director of public health, Colin Cox, said that the link between poor health and social deprivation was well established.

“Most health problems are connected to deprivation in one way or another,” he said.

He added this meant the response to Covid-19 has to take into account the fact that those who are least well-off are likely to be more at risk.

He said: “We need to be especially vigilant about responding and identifying things in more deprived areas. We have to have eyes and ears on the ground in the more deprived areas to spot the outbreaks as soon as they might start, as soon as we possibly can.”

Mr Cox said it was too early to give a definitive answer on exactly what was driving Cumbria’s higher than average death rate.

“A substantial part of that is explained by our older population, but not all of it is,” he said,

“It looks to me as if there has been a slightly higher death rate in Cumbria than you would expect, even given the older population.”

Currently, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 stands at 527 in South Lakeland, 561 in Barrow and 2,217 in Cumbria.

According to the latest batch of statistics released by NHS England, North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation Trust, which runs Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, has reported no deaths for over two weeks.

In the south of the county, the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust which runs Furness General Hospital and Westmorland General, also reported no further deaths for the past five days.