Covid infections are rising in one in five local authority areas in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this evening.
Worrying Public Health England figures reveal cases are creeping up in several areas, with the public told in a stark warning: “Don’t wreck this now.”
Although cases have fallen dramatically since the start of lockdown, Brits were warned that the battle is far from over.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told today’s Downing Street briefing: “In some parts of the UK, case rates are changing, albeit slowly, but in the wrong direction.
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“This is not a good sign, and reinforces the fact that, I’m afraid, this battle at the moment is not won.”
Prof Van-Tam called on the public to stick to rules and not relax – using a football metaphor to warn the virus could stage a comeback.
He said: “Please don’t be tempted to think well, one home visit might be all right now, weather’s getting better, going to be a nice weekend.
“One small gathering in your house won’t really matter. I’m afraid it does.
“There are some worry signs that people are relaxing, taking their foot off the brake at exactly the wrong time.
“It’s a bit like being 3-0 up in a game and thinking ‘we can’t possibly lose’. But how many times have you seen the other side take it 4-3?
“Do not wreck this now. It is too early to relax. Just continue to maintain discipline and hang on just a few more months.
“Do not wreck this now. We are so close.”
The Health Secretary told the Downing Street press conference the number of cases in England is down to one in 145 people but the rate of decline is “slowing”.
He said the rate of hospital admissions and deaths are still “far too high”, and one in five local authorities has seen a rise in case rates in the last week.
“This stark picture shows that this isn’t over yet, the stay at home rules are still in place for a reason,” he said.
“This is on all of us to keep this under control, this is still a deadly virus. We will get through this but we have to stick at it.”
England’s two worst Covid hotspots – Corby in Northamptonshire and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, have seen a week-on-week rise in cases.
Rutland, Tamworth, North Warwickshire and Preston were among the areas to see significant jumps in positive cases.
But there is encouraging news as rates continue to fall in 244 places.
A week ago The Mirror reported that Covid rates had risen in 13 areas, while a month ago the number was 10.
This afternoon the Department of Health confirmed 345 more lives had been lost to the virus, bringing the death toll to 122,415.
There were 8,523 confirmed new cases of the virus in 24 hours, latest figures show.
Yesterday a police chief blamed lockdown “fatigue” for a rise in Covid-19 rulebreakers as new figures show almost 40 per cent of all fines issued for breaches of coronavirus regulations came in just four weeks.
Data published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) shows a total of 68,952 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by forces, including 63,201 in England and 5,751 in Wales, between March 27 last year and February 14.
Some 26,277, or 38 per cent, of those were issued in the latest four-week period between January 17 and February 14.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said there had always been a “hard core” of people who had chosen not to follow the rules, adding: “But I think it probably is fair to say that, and I’ve used the phrase before, there is no question there is a fatigue in the country, among the population.”