HEREFORDSHIRE'S public health boss has revealed the reasons she thinks are behind the county's record-high Covid infection rate.

In the seven days to January 4, the latest data available on the Government's coronavirus dashboard, the coronavirus infection rate for Herefordshire stood at 1509.2 cases per 100,000.

That was the highest it had ever been, more than double the previous high of 668.3 cases per 100,000 people on September 27, 2021.

Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones, acting director of public health for Herefordshire, has said socialising over the Christmas and New Year period would be behind the spike in cases.

She said the Omicron variant, believed to be more infectious, had also become the dominant strain in the county which contributed to the huge rise.

She said: "We have seen a rise in Covid case rates as a result of this.

"Case rates are now around 1,500 per 100,000 population, which is 1 in 67 people testing positive.

"This reflects community transmission over the Christmas and New Year period. While the rates are concerning, this is balanced against the good uptake of Covid booster vaccination in the county.

"We have not yet seen a rise in serious disease or deaths locally – and we continue to be vigilant about this – and work to reduce transmission, particularly in vulnerable populations.

"We encourage anyone who is yet to have their Covid vaccination or booster to get it now."

Testing figures for Herefordshire show 10,229 people had a laboratory-processed PCR test in the seven days to January 4. The Government figures also revealed that 27.9 per cent of those came back positive.

Compared with the figures for the seven days to September 27, when the infection rate was at its previous high, 796 fewer people had got a test in that most recent seven-day period.

The difference is the positivity rate in September was significantly lower at just 11.8 per cent.

Elsewhere, the NHS is likely to be under real pressure across the country for “the next two or three weeks, perhaps longer”, Michael Gove said.

The Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our first responsibility at the moment must be to support the NHS, but you quite rightly legitimately ask if we get through – and at the moment I hope and pray that we will get through this difficult period – then there will be better times ahead.

“And I think one of the things that we do need to think about is how we live with Covid, how we live with this particular type of coronavirus. There are other coronaviruses which are endemic and with which we live, viruses tend to develop in a way whereby they become less harmful but more widespread.

“So, guided by the science, we can look to the progressive lifting of restrictions, and I think for all of us the sooner the better. But we’ve got to keep the NHS safe.”

In Herefordshire, the Wye Valley NHS Trust was treating 25 patients with Covid on Tuesday, January 4 – up 10 on the week before.

Mr Gove said the Prime Minister was right in his decision not to introduce extra restrictions. He said he had been at the “more cautious end” in the discussions.

But he added that Boris Johnson had “argued publicly that we would be able to get through this with the booster campaign, so if more were required then we would be ready to put in additional measures”.

“We always keep that under review but his judgment has been vindicated,” he said.