COVID-19 IS LIKELY TO HAVE infected two thirds of the UK’S ultra-Orthodox Jews, suggests a study commissioned by the community itself. The rate was one of the highest anywhere in the world — and up to nine times higher than the national average.
Research can rarely be definitive but the enquiry by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) last year found that in Haredi (also spelt as Charedi) secondary schools the infection may have hit three-quarters of adults and children. A large number of London’s 20,000 or so ultra-Orthodox Jews lives in Stamford Hill.
Police last month broke up an ultra-Orthodox wedding at a Haredi school in the north Hackney suburb. Windows were blacked out and the 100-plus attenders were likely to have contravened lockdown rules.
The LSHTM noted that the community had a high rate of attendance at synagogues, which have been allowed to stay open, but it found no evidence that the high infection rate was caused by rule-flouting. Overcrowded accommodation and poverty were more probable factors.
Dr Michael Marks and Dr Rosalind Eggo, who co-led the study, praised the the strictly Orthodox community, whose leaders wanted to find out why their people were being hit so hard by the virus. The community helped to fund the research. Dr Eggo said: “This study happened because the community approached us.”\
Dr Sandra Husbands, Hackney’s public health director, told Loving Dalston that Stamford Hill had a high rate of infections and household outbreaks but they had lately been masked by the “extraordinarily high rates of infection” throughout Hackney.
She went on: “The Orthodox Jewish community has been hit hard by the pandemic, with many tragic deaths. This study highlights what we already know from Public Health England data, that ethnic minority communities are hardest hit by this pandemic.
“There are many underlying reasons… In the Orthodox Jewish community there is a tendency to have larger families and to adopt a very communal way of living…
“Mixing between families… means that the infection can quickly take off across the community, leading to clusters or outbreaks.”
MP Diane Abbott, whose Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency includes Stamford Hill, commented to Loving Dalston: “Every family, countrywide and in London, that has been hit by the coronavirus has all my sympathy.”
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