PEOPLE should be under “no illusion” that we are currently living through the worst period of the Covid pandemic so far, Marie Rimmer MP has said.

Covid infection rates have doubled in St Helens and the wider Liverpool City Region for two straight weeks.

The situation is particularly perilous in Knowsley, which has seen its infection rate rocket to the highest in England in recent days.

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In the seven days up to January 7, Knowsley’s infection rate jumped from 542 to 1,352.

Across the entire Liverpool City Region, the infection rate increased from 502 to 1,016.

Earlier this week, 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.

At Whiston Hospital, bosses have had to open up four dedicated Covid wards after admissions surpassed 100, with numbers still rising.

The hospital trust reached another grim milestone this week, with deaths surpassing 400 since the pandemic began in mid-March.

Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston, has warned that deaths and infection rates will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

Now more than ever, she said, we must stick to the rules, with people’s lives depending on it.

“We must be under no illusion – we are living through the worst part of this pandemic so far,” Ms Rimmer said.

“Over the next couple of weeks deaths and infection rates are set to get even higher.

“The reality is that the government has made mistakes.”

Ms Rimmer said the dire position we are in now is a legacy of the failure of the UK government to lockdown early enough last March.

She said the “farce” of the government’s £12 billion test and trace operation is also to blame.

The former leader of St Helens Council said it is now up to the people to “pull together” to help each other through this dark time.

Ms Rimmer said: “Communities like ours have known and suffered hardship for decades, we learnt the hard way that together we can get through challenging times.

“This is our time to pull together and do all we can to stop this awful virus and help each other to get through it.

“As always my thoughts are with those that have lost loved once to this terrible virus, yet we all have a part to play to look after our communities.

“Now more than ever we must stick to the rules.

“Our communities depend on it. Our health professionals depend on it. Our lives and our neighbours’ lives depend on it.”

Sue Forster, St Helens Council’s director of public health, wrote to parents on Tuesday, saying it is of “paramount importance” we continue to work together to stop the cases rising further.

As of January 8, more than 1,500 new cases were recorded St Helens.

Worryingly, the rate of young people aged 5 to 10 years having a positive coronavirus test has more than quadrupled over the last fortnight – the highest levels since the pandemic began.

The letter said school leaders have express concerns about the an extremely high demand for places and subsequently, critical workers have been urged to only take school places if “absolutely essential”.

Council chiefs hope that such action will help to reduce the borough’s high transmission rates.

St Helens Star: St Helens Council has written to parents over the high demand for school placesSt Helens Council has written to parents over the high demand for school places

“Cases are skyrocketing, and our NHS is under huge pressure,” St Helens Borough Council leader David Baines told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“The overwhelming majority of people are doing the right thing and following the rules and the council will continue to work closely with local health services on community and targeted testing and supporting the roll-out of vaccinations.

“While residents and the council do our bit, we need the government to do theirs.

“They must protect workers through lockdown so that we can reduce contacts and mixing even further by addressing once and for all the inadequate support for workers asked to self-isolate.

“And Ministers need to protect family finances by backing the essential services provided by local councils and giving them the funding they need directly rather than through a council tax rise; by stopping the planned cut in Universal Credit, which would put an extra £1,000 in the pockets of six million families; by giving our key workers the pay rise they deserve, including education staff, armed forces and care workers; and by extending the ban on evictions and repossessions while the UK remains in lockdown.

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“Since last March, the government and some others have tried to paint the pandemic response as being a choice between public health or the economy.

“That’s never been the case – we can and should do both.

“Thank you to everyone in St Helens borough for doing the right thing. Get tested, get vaccinated and we’ll get through this together.”