Coronavirus rates in the South West hit new record

Surge testing being carried out in Bristol.

Covid case rates in the South West are the highest they have ever been - with the region now the worst hit in the country.

The coronavirus case rate in the West Country is now 579.9 cases per 100,000 people - a rise from 298.8 per 100,000 people the previous week.

It means the region's Covid rate is the highest since comparable records began when mass testing was introduced.

There has also been a 22% rise in patients in hospital in the past week.

It comes after the news as many as 43,000 people in the region may have been wrongly given a negative PCR test result due to technical issues at a lab in Wolverhampton.

Bath and North East Somerset is the worst-hit local authority area in England - with a case rate of 877.5 per 100,000 - prompting a warning from health officials to "be alert" to the virus.

The council is asking people who live in the Bath area to meet outdoors where possible to help slow the spread of the virus.

Somerset West and Taunton - which has gone from 365.5 cases per 100,000 to 872.5 - has the second highest Covid-19 case rate in the UK.

What does the data show?

Case rates are rising in all but one council area in the South West, according to Government data.

Many places have seen a sharp rise - including Stroud (143.1 to 782.4), Cheltenham (138.7 to 773.9) and Tewkesbury (95.2 to 691.3).

The only local authority in the South West to record a falling coronavirus case rate is Exeter, - which has dropped from 339.0 per 100,000 people to 313.5 per 100,000.

The current coronavirus case rate in the South West is at the highest since comparable records began in the summer of 2020.

Hospitals are also reporting a rise in the number of Covid-related admissions. NHS England data shows there were 549 people with Covid-19 in the region's hospitals as of Tuesday 19 October.

This marks a 22% rise in the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus and the highest total since 26 February.

But it remains low compared to the number in hospital during the peak of the second wave, when 2,366 people were in hospital with coronavirus.