'Don't be complacent' say medics as Covid rates creep up across the North West
There is a warning across the region not to be complacent about Covid 19 as rates begin to rise once more.
In Lancashire around 5% of hospital beds are currently occupied by Covid patients -that is higher than in the past few months, with community transmission also on the up.
In Warrington, the ONS Infection Survey, which is the most accurate data for cases following the end of widespread testing, has identified that 1 in 50 residents have had COVID for the week 4 - 11 June.
The previous week had 1 in 70 positive cases, with officials describing it as "a significant increase".
Those who have not yet been vaccinated, or have not had all three jabs, are being urged to come forward.
Jane Scattergood, the Covid 19 Vaccination Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria said: "The pandemic is not yet over.
"The disease is not yet endemic. So we're living with Covid but we're not in a place where it's super predictable and we can really, really manage it.
"What's happening is unexpected, a little bit concerning but my message is to encourage anyone that's not already vaccinated to come forward and get the protection."
Warrington Council said it was the first increase in estimated infection rates since early March, and is expected to continue.
The town's Director of Public Health, Thara Raj, said: "Due to a number of factors, such as the rise in travel and activities in summer, the warmer weather and the removal of restrictions, we have seen a rise in cases in Warrington.
"Due to the higher transmission of the current COVID-19 variant, this is to be expected.
"However, the summer season means there is more opportunity for increased ventilation, and alongside the habits we've been following throughout the pandemic, we will be able to keep the spread of coronavirus to a minimum."
According to Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, the North West interim regional director at the UK Health Security Agency, the recent rise has come with a shift in the dominant strain from the Omicron BA.2 variant.
He said the latest data indicates that Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 now account for more than half of rising COVID-19 cases in the UK and are driving the recent increase in infections.
Dr Ghebrehewet said: "We are fortunate that, so far, the rise in cases has only led to a slight increase in hospital admissions, but admissions to intensive care units and deaths remain low, and this is down to the efficacy of the vaccine and the incredible efforts of people across the country getting vaccinated."
The medics are saying we can all play our part by staying at home if you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms or a fever, and limit contact with others until you are feeling better - particularly if they are likely to be at greater risk if they catch Covid-19.
People are being asked to consider wearing a face-covering in crowded, enclosed spaces and washing hands thoroughly and often, especially before and after getting on public transport or getting in from work, shops or the pub.
And meeting others outside is much safer than indoors, health officials say, as the fresh air helps to blow the Covid-19 particles away.
Dr Ghebrehewet added: "Let's enjoy the summer and our regained freedoms but keep in mind that Covid-19 hasn't gone away and we all need to do our bit to live safely."
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...