“Worrying” figures show the biggest increases in Covid-19 cases are now in Liverpool and the West Midlands, according to the latest data.
Both regions have seen particularly sharp increases in cases, overtaking the speed of the spread of the virus in the South and East of England, which has seen hospitals overwhelmed with Covid patients.
Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “These are sobering figures and it’s clear that the virus is spreading very rapidly across the country, and worryingly so for the North West and in particular the Liverpool City Region.
“I’d urge everyone to be extra careful and keep doing everything to keep yourself and loved ones safe to stop our NHS being overwhelmed.”
In Knowsley on Merseyside, the rate has soared from 455.4 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to December 30 to 1,263.4 per 100,000 in the seven days to January 6 – the biggest week-on-week rise for any local authority area in England.
Cllr Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, said, “The rate at which our figures are continuing to increase is a major concern.
“Clearly there are some in our community who are not taking this situation seriously.
“We have no option but to go back to basics and follow the rules as we all did in the lockdown in the first half of last year.”
Halton in Cheshire, also part of the Liverpool City Region, saw the second biggest jump, from 533.2 to 1,220.2.
And Liverpool itself recorded the third largest increase, from 387.5 to 958.6.
All six authorities in the Liverpool City Region are currently in the top 10 local areas with the biggest week-on-week jump in rates.
Matthew Ashton, director of public health at Liverpool City Council, said: “They are very concerning infection rates.
“Our rates have more than doubled in a week.
“Everybody needs to be strictly following the rules. Even if you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.
“In fact we have got a variant of the virus that is 50 to 70 per cent more transmissible, therefore our Covid security measures need to be 50 to 70 per cent stronger, and that is strict adherence to the rules.”
Mr Ashton said pressure on hospitals will be “immense” and despite “pandemic fatigue” the new strain meant there could be no let-up.
He added: “We are going to see more deaths. The next two months are going to be very difficult for everybody. This is literally about saving lives now.”
Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall – all within the West Midlands metropolitan county – have also seen sharp increases.
In Wolverhampton, rates have jumped from 638.3 to 1,033.6, in Sandwell they are up from 567.5 to 953.0, and in Walsall they have risen from 497.1 to 815.5.
The figures show how the rapid increase in rates seen in London and much of south-east and eastern England at the end of December has now spread to other parts of the country.
All regions of England continue to record a week-on-week increase in rates, though there are signs in the South and East that the rise is slowing.
In London, the rate stood at 1,000.9 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to January 6, up slightly from 965.4 in the previous week.
All figures have been calculated by the PA news agency based on the latest data published by Public Health England.