COVID has spread to more of St Helens’ care homes, as GPs prepare to start rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

At the turn of the year, the number of care homes that had homes reported confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 jumped considerably, increasing from just one to seven.

The latest data from St Helens Council, covering the seven days up to January 8, shows that eight of the borough’s care homes have now reported confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

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A total of 50 people tested positive for Covid-19 during the latest period, up from 44 the week previous.

One death that occurred in the latest period has been linked to Covid-19, according to the council data, which is gathered daily from each care home.

The further spread of Covid in the borough’s care homes comes as St Helens CCG begins to ramp up its vaccination programme.

A total of 360 people in the largest four care homes were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine just before New Year.

From Tuesday, GPs will use the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate staff and residents in 22 care homes.

St Helens CCG said it aims to have completed vaccinating the borough’s care homes by the end of the week.

The move cannot come soon enough, as Covid infection rates continue to surge at an alarming pace across the Liverpool City Region.

In St Helens, infection rate has doubled for two straight weeks.

In the seven days up to January 7, the infection rate jumped from 372.1 positive cases to 799.8 per 100,000 population.

Knowsley’s infection rate shot up from 542.2 to 1,352.2, which is among the highest in England.

Across the Liverpool City Region as a whole, the infection rate doubled from 502 to 1016.6.

Hospital admissions have also seen a notable increase, jumping from 388 to 602 in the seven days up to January 5.

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The number of Covid patients in ICU jumped from 27 to 42.

At Whiston Hospital, bosses have had to open up a number of additional Covid wards after an influx in admissions.

And this afternoon, NHS chief Simon Stevens told MPs there has been a 50 per cent rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations in Merseyside in the past week alone.