One in every 85 people in Halton has tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week as infections soared after Christmas.

Cases of Covid-19 more than quadrupled in the borough during the week up to January 4, reaching a total of 1,517 by the time the new national lockdown was announced.

With a rate of 1,172 cases per 100,000 residents, Halton now has more than double the number of infections it had at the peak of the second wave as more than 1% of the population as Covid-19. The total is also ten times higher than the number of infections recorded at the end of the November lockdown.

Halton Council’s director of public health Eileen O’Meara has said mixing over the Christmas period combined with the new, more infectious strain of the virus had contributed to the sudden huge increase in cases in the borough.

Ms O’Meara said: “The current situation is extremely serious. We all need to do what we can now to bring the virus back under control, to stop more people becoming seriously ill, or sadly, dying and to ensure that our local hospitals do not become overwhelmed.”

Local hospitals have seen the number of patients with Covid-19 begin to rise as well, with Warrington and Halton Hospitals reporting 155 covid patients on its wards on Friday (January 8).

Of those, 25 were said to be in ICU, meaning the hospitals’ intensive care units were almost at capacity, although the hospital trust as previously said it is able to increase ICU capacity to some extent.

Ms O’Meara issued a plea to Halton residents on Friday, urging them to abide by government instructions to stay at home and “remember the basics” of wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing if they did have to go outside.

She added: “If you cannot work from home and particularly if your job involves contact with others, we would also encourage you to take up our offer of a regular fast no-symptoms test at Grangeway or Ditton Community Centre, to help stop the spread of the virus.

“These are simple things that we can all do, that will work. Halton has always been a place where people look out for each other and we need everyone to keep doing that now, more than ever.

“It is important to remember that this won’t be forever. Some of our older residents have already received their first Covid-19 vaccination and many more will follow in the coming days and weeks.

“But until the vaccine can be rolled out fully, we do need to stay strong and keep going, to keep each other safe.”