The new strain of coronavirus appears to be spreading fast as areas record very high levels of cases ahead of Christmas.

Most wards in Watford, Hertsmere and Three Rivers are experiencing a rise in cases, with some recording more than 70 during a week.

Hertfordshire along with London and swathes of the South East and East England were placed into Tier 4 on Sunday after scientists warned of the rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus.

The county council tweeted on Saturday that it has seen a “significant recent spike in cases locally, as a result of the new variant”.

Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus has warned that the new variant is “much much more infectious” and could become the dominant strain of the virus.

He also warned that supermarkets, which are allowed to stay open in Tier 4, could become the “perfect environment” for the virus to spread if there is bad queuing, panic buying, crowding and a lack of social distancing.

What is the situation like in Watford, Hertsmere and Three Rivers ahead of Christmas?

Concerning, and perhaps why the government took drastic action to ban Christmas mixing and put Hertfordshire into Tier 4.

Infection rates are rising in all 10 districts of Hertfordshire, with Watford, Hertsmere and Three Rivers all seeing a case rate of over 500 per 100,000 population in the seven days to December 19.

And a government map shows that most of Watford, Hertsmere and Three Rivers is purple – this indicates that cases are very high.

The number of cases in Bushey is extremely high, with the Bushey Central ward recording 103 cases in the week to December 18 – Bushey Heath recorded slightly less (80) during the period.

Other wards seeing over 50 cases include Central Watford (77), Leggatts (52), Croxley Green (56), Leavesden and Garston Manor (54), Borehamwood Hillside (65), Oxhey Hall & Hayling (53) and South Oxhey (54).

Woodside and Leavesden Green, Holywell, West Watford, Carpenders Park, Elstree and Aldenham, Borehamwood Brookmeadow and Borehamwood Cowley Hill have all seen over 40 cases.

Cases are much lower in Kings Langley, however, with 11 having been recorded in the week to December 18.

Below you can see the number of infections in each ward in South West Hertfordshire.

On Tuesday, Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus warned people that “we are in a dangerous position” in terms of transmission and said a lack of social distancing in supermarkets will cause the virus to spread.

Mr McManus said in a Covid-19 breifing on Tuesday: "We are in a dangerous position in terms of transmission, when the supermarkets are very very busy and crowded, when we know that this virus transmits very easily and people are getting too close to one another, which is the reason why the virus is transmitting, and not necessarily following the measures.

"So, a lot of our small retailers are very Covid safe and have done an excellent job - your heart goes out to them and it's great that the essential ones can continue to open.

"But if we get loads of panic buying, and loads of crowding, and loads of people not distancing and all stood next to one another in a supermarket, that will be a perfect environment for this virus to spread regardless of whether people have face coverings on.

"We need everybody to get back to the measures that we had earlier in the year when there was clear queuing in our larger retailers, that people distanced and that you had hand sanitiser and face coverings."