A RISE in coronavirus cases in St Helens should serve as a “warning”, the local director of public health has said.

A surge in positive cases last week has seen the borough’s weekly infection rate rise to 11.7 per 100,000 population.

Last Wednesday the council revealed that the weekly infection had dropped to 1.1 – the lowest in the North West.

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But the following day, nine cases were added to Public Health England’s figures, with another confirmed case added to the figures on Friday.

Over the weekend, the number of recorded coronavirus cases increased by 18.

Sue Forster, director for public health for St Helens Borough Council, said the surge is partly down to residents and staff from “at least” four different care homes testing positive in one week.

She also said there has been a “cluster” of cases traced back to a group of people linked to the hospitality trade.

St Helens Star: A mobile testing facility has been set up at Clifton Street Car Park (image courtesy of Google Maps)A mobile testing facility has been set up at Clifton Street Car Park (image courtesy of Google Maps)

While the numbers are still relatively small, public health moved quickly to set up a mobile testing facility near St Helens town centre from today until Friday.

It is understood there is no talk yet of a local lockdown in St Helens, but Ms Forster has hinted this could happen if cases spiral.

She said: “I think it’s really important for residents and businesses to understand that if our figures go the wrong way, that we will be Blackburn with Darwen, Leicester, and the Government are watching.

“I will have to go before them and say what we’re going to do.

“And I know there’s been significant impacts on businesses and the economy in both Blackburn with Darwen and Leicester.

“I think it can spiral very quickly and actually, that’s not good for us socially, economically and for our health in St Helens.

“That would be my key message to get over – this is like a little bit of a warning for us. And we can get hold of this, we really can, by working together because we’ve done it once before.

“We can do this, we can and we’ve got a fantastic population that really worked well with us. We just really need to make sure we don’t go in the wrong direction.

“We can only do it together because I can do as many things as I want to but actually it’s around our behaviours that really will make a difference to whether it goes the wrong way or the right way.”

Since the start of the outbreak in March, 1,239 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in St Helens, with one more case added to PHE’s figures this week.

Ms Forster said she expects the numbers to continue to rise over the coming days, based on data coming through to her and an increase in testing.

She said there has been a spike in the number of people getting tested following the temporary closure of The Gerard Arms pub in Dentons Green last week after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19.

St Helens Star:  The Gerard Arms pub temporarily shut its doors to the public last week to carry out a clean of the premises The Gerard Arms pub temporarily shut its doors to the public last week to carry out a clean of the premises

“I think we need to be prepared for the numbers to go up slightly,” Ms Forster said.

“But I think with that, although people say testing number did go up last week, we’ve been relatively low compared to other areas.

“So we’re below the rate for the North West and England as a whole.

“When you come from a low baseline, that’s why you’re low, because you’ve no reason to test and the public don’t think they’ve a reason to test.

“So we might expect to see it rise.

“And it’s an invisible disease, so I can’t say definitely that we have got a handle on it 100 per cent.”

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The mobile testing unit, which will operate by appointment only, will be available at Clifton Street Car Park until Friday, August 14.

Click here to apply for a test online or alternatively call NHS 119.

Essential workers and members of their household can apply for priority testing through GOV.UK