HOUSEHOLDS socialising over Christmas did lead to a big jump in Covid cases in the New Year, St Helens’ director of public health has said.

During a meeting of the People’s Board this week, Sue Forster said a “perfect storm” of factors led to the post-Christmas spike.

The public health chief said infection rates across the Liverpool City Region have peaked, although hospitals remain under immense pressure.

READ > Whiston Hospital still under Covid cosh as bosses make fresh plea to the public

Ms Forster also said she is “particularly worried” in the increasing trend of cases in the over 80s, with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000.

Many of these are linked to care homes, with eight of the borough’s homes reporting positive or suspected Covid cases in the seven days up to January 15.

Ms Forster also confirmed that a number of younger children have been impacted in this third wave, although she said the numbers are “quite small”.


The data shows that, in the seven days up to January 16, there were 416 cases per 100,000 population found in the 0-4 age group.

Another factor in the recent spike was the Liverpool City Region moving into Tier 2 restrictions in December, with Ms Forster saying this “heavily impacted” the region.

“What we’ve really got, or had, is the perfect storm,” she told the People’s Board, which is made up of various public sector organisations.

“We’ve had a new variant and then socialising over Christmas.

“And even through the restrictions were only for one day, we did definitely see the trend where it was a real increase just after Christmas.”

In St Helens the infection rate peaked at 866 per 100,000 population, and while it has seen a small decrease since then, it remains high.

The highest number of infections recorded in a single day was on January 11, where 316 cases were diagnosed.

In early December, St Helens was seeing around 20-30 cases per day.

Ms Forster said the asymptomatic testing that has been going on in the region has also impacted the high rates.

She said St Helens’ testing sites were “absolutely inundated” on December 23 and 24, as people rushed to get tested before Christmas Day.

St Helens Star:

St Helens’ three mass symptom-free testing sites have been operational since early December, and have carried out more than 39,000 tests to date.

So far, 741 people who were asymptomatic carriers of the virus have been discovered through the symptom-free testing.

“This has been a real opportunity for us to really break that chain of transmission and get people to isolate and then implement contact tracing,” Ms Forster said.

READ > Thousands of people have now received Covid vaccine in St Helens

Looking ahead, Ms Forster said health officials nationally and locally need to keep a close eye on other variants, such as those from South Africa and Brazil.

She also stressed that “hands, face, space” need to be applied at all times, as the local data has shown the new variant is much more transmissible.

For more information, visit: