Coronavirus rates in the South West are the highest they have been since comparable figures began in summer 2020, when mass testing was first introduced across the UK, new analysis shows.
Health chiefs in Bath and North East Somerset are now asking people to meet outdoors and "be alert" to the virus as the local authority area is experiencing the highest rates in England.
The council's director of public health Becky Reynolds said: “It’s concerning to see how quickly our Covid-19 rates have been rising, particularly amongst 5-19 and the 40-49-year-olds.
"Today the seven-day rate for Bath and North East Somerset at 760 per 100,000 is the highest rate in England compared with other unitary authorities.
“NHS Test and Trace have been investigating a laboratory issue and while this has been taking place we have not seen a true picture of Covid-19 infection rates in the South West. The issue has now been resolved, however, we can expect to see our rates rise as a result."
She said there is "so much virus circulating" the council needs "everyone's help" to stop rates increasing.
"We are especially appealing to teenagers, parents and carers to be alert to the virus and follow the simple steps we all need to take if we have symptoms or are a close contact of someone with symptoms,” she added.
The sharp increase in cases comes after a laboratory processing PCR tests gave an estimated 43,000 people incorrect negative results, most of whom were in the South West.
B&NES Council is now urging people to consider additional measures to try and stop the spread of the virus.
Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture, said: “We have all worked so hard over the past 20 months to keep each other safe and it is very concerning now to see the figures rising so rapidly.
"I am urging people to get back to the basics of mask wearing, hand washing and regular testing to try and bring these numbers down. Please continue to take up all the jabs you are offered be that the vaccine, the booster or the flu jab.
"If we don’t all act now I am concerned the pressures will increase on the NHS, our services and businesses as we go into winter.”
With half term approaching, the council has suggested families meet outdoors if possible, and has advised people to keep rooms well ventilated if meeting indoors.
Hospitalisations have also risen in the area.
A spokesperson for B&NES council said: "We are seeing an increasing number of people in hospital with Covid-19, there were 57 inpatients yesterday, our NHS and schools are under increasing pressure, and businesses are impacted when staff are off ill.
"So reminding ourselves to make these precautionary measures part of our day to day lives will make a real difference to protecting each other and our communities."
A look at coronavirus cases across the South West
The West Country now has the highest rate of new coronavirus cases in England, though all regions are currently recording an increase in rates.
A total of 32,815 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the South West in the seven days up to Friday, 15 October. This means the average Covid case rate is 579.9 per 100,000 people.
This is a significant increase from 16,910 cases - or 298.8 per 100,000 - in the previous seven days.
In fact, coronavirus case rates are now rising in all but one council area in the South West.
The area where cases are falling is Exeter, where the rate of coronavirus cases has fallen from 339 to 313.5 per 100,000 people.
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