THE rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Cheshire West and Chester has begun to rise.

After a two-month steady decrease in the rate of new cases being confirmed in the borough, which had seen the area's infection rate falling from a high of 626.1 in the seven days up to January 4 to 55.7 in the seven days up to March 15, a surge of new confirmed cases has abruptly halted that trend.

The latest infection rate, for the seven days to March 17, is 66.8, and the number of people reporting positive tests from March 16-22 was 250 – a rise of 20.2 per cent on the previous seven days.

However, the infection rate for those aged 60 and over remains relatively low, at 26.2.

An analysis of the data shows that a significant reason for the surge in confirmed cases is from school pupils.

The infection rate in those aged five to nine has risen from 24.7 (five positive cases in the borough) in the seven days up to March 7 – the day before all pupils returned to school – to 103.9 in the seven days to March 17 (21 positive cases).

Similarly, the infection rate in those aged 10-14 has risen from 56.4 (11 positive cases) in the seven days up to March 7, to 138.4 (27 positive cases) in the seven days up to March 17.

That infection rate of 138.4 is now the highest for any age demographic in the borough.

This can be largely explained by schools and families doing far more testing of pupils, even if they are not showing any Covid symptoms.

A total of 11,111 lateral flow tests – the same type carried out at schools and delivered to families – were carried out on March 17 alone in Cheshire West and Chester.

By comparison, 7,794 people had a PCR test (the type taken at a Covid testing site) carried out in the week of March 11-17.

The number of people being vaccinated continues to rise nationally, with 53.2 per cent of UK adults having now received their first dose of a vaccination, and 4.3 per cent of residents having had both doses.