Public health leaders have said Hertfordshire is at the "higher end" of Tier 1 and warned tighter restrictions are not "far off".

Director of public health, Jim McManus, says the county is "definitely in a second wave" of coronavirus, and he is "particularly worried" about a recent rise in cases in the over 60s.

In a briefing with the media this morning, Mr McManus shared a presentation which stated cases are rising in all areas of the county and across all age groups, including those aged 60-75.

He says the "whole community needs to act now" to slow the "rapid spread of coronavirus in Hertfordshire" which started in people aged 17-24.

Although admitting rates in some places in the county are still inflated by university students living elsewhere, Mr McManus is able to separate testing figures - which prove there are dozens of active cases, in south Hertfordshire in particular.

In the week ending October 1, analysis of NHS data suggests 242 cases out of 714 in Hertfordshire were actually students living elsewhere.

Of these 242 cases, this includes 51 in St Albans, 50 in Hertsmere, 30 in Dacorum, 19 in Three Rivers, and 7 in Watford.

Graphs shared in the briefing suggested case rates locally are now less skewed - and many of the cases published on the government's daily dashboard in October are in fact people currently living locally.

The latest weekly rate of cases for the whole of Hertfordshire is 86 cases per 100,000 – and it is 75 per 100,000 if you take out cases of students who are not currently living in the county.

The government threshold of going into Tier 2 restrictions, which means a ban on meeting people socially in indoor settings, is a rate of 100 per 100,000.

Hertfordshire is currently Tier 1, which Hertfordshire County Council believes "accurately reflects" the current situation in the county.

But Councillor Tim Hutchings, cabinet member for public health in the county, warned: "We’re not far off from Tier 2. We are at the higher end of Tier 1, no question about that. But we feel we are under control (of the virus).”

Mr McManus said the best way of avoiding going into Tier 2 was for everyone to treat each other as if they were infected, by minimising social contact.

As well as encouraging people to comply with rules, Mr McManus confirmed police did issue fixed penalty notices to people over the weekend who refused to wear face coverings.

A 'week of action' has been taking place in Watford involving the police and Watford Borough Council.

The council, which has daily meetings with district leaders and Public Health England, is undertaking a "deep dive" into the data, specifically in Watford and Three Rivers at the moment, and seeing if there is any evidence that links people commuting to London.

The public health leaders appeared to rule out any chance of specific areas of Hertfordshire going into tighter restrictions, instead saying it would be the entire county, even though cases are lower in some areas like Stevenage.

Watford Observer:

Credit: PA

McManus said there were a "multiplicity" of sources of infection and indicated outbreaks at workplaces may have caused the number of cases to rise.

He said restaurants in Hertfordshire were "very Covid secure" and they are not "generating anything like as much transmission as they are in some parts of the country".

Testing figures were shared in the briefing which show between 300 and 350 people a week are being tested for Covid-19 in each of Hertfordshire’s ten districts – and Mr McManus said it was "welcoming" that the positivity rate was below 6 per cent in every district, and down from 8 per cent a few weeks ago.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has recorded 15 deaths in October where patients tested positive for Covid-19 but Cllr Hutchings said Watford General takes in patients from outside Hertfordshire.

Mr McManus said information he received on Tuesday night shows six Hertfordshire residents who had Covid-19 died between October 10 and 16. He described the number of deaths in the county as “not alarming but they are concerning”.

He added hospitals are seeing "a bit more demand" but they are "coping well".