The latest data shows the rate of new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 7, followed by the equivalent figure for the previous seven days to June 30. The figures are based on tests that have been carried out both in laboratories (pillar one of the Government’s testing programme) and in the wider community (pillar two). Leicester, which was placed back into lockdown earlier this month following a coronavirus spike, still has the highest infection rate in England but has seen this fall to 122.2 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to July 7.
This had stood at 131.8 cases in the previous week and was as high as 150.9 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to June 23.
But Leicester is followed by Pendle in Lancashire, with the infection rate nearly quadrupling from 13.1 cases to 47 cases – triggered by a rise in the number of new infections recorded on July 6 and 7.
In Blackburn with Darwen, the rate has jumped from 20.1 to 35.6, although this is still below the 36.9 cases per 100,000 people recorded in the seven days to June 23.
Kirklees in West Yorkshire has recorded 31.7 cases compared to 28.9 the week before, while the infection rate in Peterborough has increased from 16.4 cases to 22.9 cases.
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Northampton has also seen a significant jump, from 12.9 cases to 21.3, while there has been a slight increase in Carlisle to 20.3 cases from 18.5 cases during the previous measurement.
The infection rate has nearly doubled in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans, from 10.2 cases to 19 cases, while this number has jumped massively in Kettering, from 8.9 cases to 18.8 cases.
Dover, home to one of the busiest passenger sea ports in the world, has seen the number of cases per 100,000 people increase from 12.0 to 17.1, while there has also been a surge in the London borough of Dartford, from 10.9 cases to 15.5 cases.
The alarming new figures from Public Health England come after it was revealed the R rate – the estimated reproduction rate – has jumped to 1.0 in England, triggering fears of more local lockdowns throughout the country.
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The UK Government said the R rate has edged up to between 0.8 and 1.0, from 0.8 to 0.9 the week before.
Across the whole of the UK, the R number remains unchanged at between 0.7 and 0.9, which indicated the pandemic is shrinking.
On Friday, Boris Johnson urged Britons to go back to work if they can, in a significant shift from the government’s policy of telling people to work from home.
The Prime Minister said people should “try to lead their lives more normally” as lockdown measures continue to be eased.
In an online question and answer session with the public, Mr Johnson said: “I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible. It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now.
“I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’. Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.
“I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants, and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance.”
But the Prime Minister warned even as the number of coronavirus cases fall, the rules on wearing face coverings need to be “stricter”.
He added: “I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.
“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission.”
The Government made face coverings compulsory on public transport and hospitals in England, but not yet in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible and where “you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.
Mr Johnson later posted pictures of himself wearing a face covering during a visit to businesses in his Uxbridge constituency.
This was the first time the Prime Minister has been seen in public wearing a face covering, with Downing Street currently reviewing whether to expand the guidance on the protective item.