Covid figures must drop considerably to ease the pressure on health and care services, Wiltshire’s health chief says.

In the last seven days, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has risen by 1,811. A figure which has tripled since December 21.

This means that the current rate of infection per 100,000 is 362.2. While lower than the England rate of 629, Kate Blackburn, Wiltshire’s public health director says figures are heading in the wrong direction.

She added that the local case rates are concerning and have been following the upward tick in cases nationally.

However, the increase this week has not been as much as in previous weeks, the health boss said.

“Our case rate is starting to slow and interestingly surrounding areas that went into Tier 4 earlier do seem to be starting to plateau even a little bit,” Mrs Blackburn said.

“But it is really too early to say that is a trend and we wouldn’t be able to judge that for a couple of weeks.”

A particular concern raised by Mrs Blackburn was the case rates among the over-60s which stands at 282.

In Wiltshire, there have been 462 registered deaths with Covid-19 included on the death certificate up to December 25. An increase of 11 deaths from the previous weeks' figures.

“We need to see those figures fall considerably to ease the pressure faced by our health and care services and to help us get back to a more normal way of life,” Mrs Blackburn added.

Rapid flow testing for those who do not have Covid-19 symptoms will be made available across the country this week led by the Department for Education and the Department for Social Care.

The local authority says it has not yet been given the details on how this can be managed locally and how this will work with the national schemes.

Mrs Blackburn said: “Rapid flow testing is not something that can be used in isolation.

“If it’s used properly it can be a useful tool at our disposal to break transmission but there are still question marks on how reliable rapid testing is.

“So we will be deploying it sensibly and where we think it can add value locally to support the work we’re doing.”

Looking back to last year when there was no guarantee of a vaccine being developed to combat the virus, Mrs Blackburn said there is great joy in seeing the vaccines roll out across the county.

But she added that residents must not let their guards down and must keep complying with guidelines.

“The virus has already caused so much suffering but we just need everyone to dig deep and keep following the strict guidance and keep going,” she said.