Coronavirus infections are continuing to rise across England as the country approaches the planned end of lockdown on 21 June.
With many restrictions on socialising eased in recent weeks, authorities have stressed that the number of cases was always expected to increase.
But large swathes of the North West of England are experiencing a surge in cases even among at-risk older groups, with the proportion of tests coming back positive far exceeding a threshold set by the World Health Organisation for assessing whether the virus is under control.
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Boris Johnson is reportedly considering delaying lockdown ending by a month.
So which areas are currently the country’s Covid hotspots and where is cause for concern?
Highest case rates
There are 27 areas in England where more than 100 people per 100,000 of the population tested positive for Covid in the seven days to 5 June.
That compares to a national average of 50 cases.
The highest was in Blackburn with Darwen, where there were 583 cases per 100,000 – meaning almost six positive tests for every 1,000 people living there.
This was followed by Rossendale (323), Bolton (311) and Burnley (288).
Of the top 20 areas with the highest case rates, 19 were in the North West, with Bedford in the East of England also appearing.
Many of these areas have been receiving surge testing due to the spread of the Delta variant, which means more asymptomatic cases may be being caught that in other areas of the country, pushing the infection rate up.
The top 20 council areas were:
|Area||Cases per 100,000 in week to 5 June|
|Blackburn with Darwen||583.2|
Increase in cases
The rate of infection rose by 54% across the country in the week to 5 June compared to the week to 29 May.
The highest rate of increase was in Eden, in Cumbria, although coming from a very low base – 1.9 cases per 100,000 to 37.6, or an increase of almost 1,900%.
After Eden, there were 23 areas where cases more than tripled, which included two areas where there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 – Staffordshire Moorlands and Cheshire West and Chester.
The 20 areas with the highest rate of increase was as follows:
|Area||Rate in week to 29 May||Rate in week to 5 June||Increase|
|North East Derbyshire||5.9||19.7||234%|
Cases among people aged 60 and over
While only those aged 70 and above are considered clinically vulnerable, the NHS says those aged 60 and over are at high risk.
That means they are more likely to develop serious illnesses and die.
However it is hoped vaccinations will have broken the link between infection and hospitalisations, and later death, even among vaccinated people who catch the virus.
There were 10.4 Covid cases per 100,000 people aged 60 and above across England in the week to 5 June.
But some areas – again in the North West – have particularly high rates.
The 20 councils with the most cases among this age group were:
|Area||Rate per 100,000|
|Blackburn with Darwen||125.8|
The positivity rate is the proportion of people tested who have at least one positive result, with duplicate results for people who took more than one test removed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) set 5% as a maximum threshold for judging whether the virus is under control, and recommended governments ensure the rate is below this for at least two weeks before loosening restrictions.
While the positivity rate across England as a whole was 1.8% in the week to 5 June, there are 17 council areas that breach the 5% threshold.
Blackburn’s rate is almost three times higher, at 14.8%.
It is followed by Rossendale on 10.7% and South Ribble on 9.9%.
The 20 councils with the highest positivity rate are:
|Blackburn with Darwen||14.8%|
The Delta variant of concern, first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the UK.
Public Health England research published today (11 June) reveals that it now accounts for over 90% of new Covid cases.
The health body said the data showed the Delta variant is associated with a 60% increase in the risk of transmission within a household, compared to the Alpha variant previously identified in England.
As the variant grows in dominance, the areas with the highest number of Delta cases will look more and more similar to the list of the areas with the highest number of overall cases.
Not all tests are genomically sequenced however, so the number of positive tests that were caused by the Delta variant will be higher than the number identified through surveillance of variants.
The 20 areas with the highest number of Delta cases identified to date are:
|Blackburn with Darwen||724|
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