CORONAVIRUS infection rates in St Helens are the highest in Merseyside and among the worst in the North West following a surge in recent days.

The number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 for St Helens as of Wednesday, April 8 was 269 – a rise of 208 cases over the last week.

By Tuesday, based on the four days previously, the recorded rate of infection based on population in St Helens had increased to the second highest in the North West.

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The official figures, which are updated daily by Public Health England, only represent people testing positive at hospital.

Crucially, they do not include anyone with symptoms self-isolating at home, meaning the true number is likely to be much higher.

With the Easter bank holiday on the horizon and some potential sunshine to go with it, health chiefs have urged the public to follow the government’s advice on social distancing and stay at home.

Restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the disease say people should go out as little as possible and only leave if absolutely necessary.

It is also important to avoid local beauty spots to exercise or walk your dogs as these places can quickly fill up with people – particularly in nice weather – and make human contact far more likely.

Sue Forster, St Helens Council’s director of public health, said: “The government’s guidance is clear and for everyone’s safety – you must stay at home.

“Only go out for essentials such as food and medicine, or work if you cannot work from home.

“Exercise at home if possible, but if you have to go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times.

“The government has said this is an instruction and not a ‘request’, and therefore I am asking you to please stay at home this weekend.”

St Helens Star: Sue Forster, St Helens Council’s director of public healthSue Forster, St Helens Council’s director of public health

On Wednesday, St Helens CCG used its first virtual governing body meeting to reinforce this vital message.

Dr Hilary Flett warned that the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be slowed if people flout the rules.

“The message going out to all of our patients is to continue with social isolation, follow the government’s rules,” Dr Flett said.

“Stay at home, only go out for exercise, only go out for essential food because that is what’s going to make the big difference.

“That’s what’s going to save the NHS and keep the NHS safe. And I think that’s probably the most important message that we can be giving out at this governing body.

“The one thing that we can do is to get that message out to our population about please, please, please follow the rules which have been laid down by the government because that’s what’s going to slow the spread, slow the curve and get us back to normal, quicker.

“If everybody keeps wandering out and sitting around in the parks and having chats – that’s what is going to slow down the recovery.”

Government guidelines instruct people to stay local and use open spaces, where possible, near their home and avoid unnecessary travel.

Although the parks are open for exercising and walking dogs, this must be done at a safe distance and dogs should be kept on leads to help maintain social distancing.

Gatherings of more than two in parks and public spaces are banned, unless they are members within your household.

The police have the powers to enforce social distancing rules and can disperse groups, stop people and ask why they are out and issue on the spot fines for anyone refusing to follow the regulations.

St Helens Star: Residents are being asked to avoid beauty spots like Taylor Park (pictured)Residents are being asked to avoid beauty spots like Taylor Park (pictured)

Cllr Anthony Burns, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “These are difficult times, and every one of us will need to pull together as a community to make sure we get through.

“We must ensure that everyone continues to abide by the restrictions put in place.

“We have the Easter weekend coming up, maybe with some good weather, people may be tempted to go out and about a bit more, but this is the wrong time to do it.

“We need to all hang on and continue to adhere as strictly as we can to the current measures.”

You can report any matters concerning COVID-19 to Merseyside Police online via Twitter @MerPolCC or via