Cornavirus infection numbers are increasing in more than 40% of areas in the UK, the latest infection data shows.
The government’s latest figures covering the seven days up to 21 March, the most recent date for which complete data is available, reveal that cases are rising in 161 out of 380 local council areas – or 42% of the UK.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its weekly infection survey report on Friday which confirmed that levels of transmission are levelling out across most of England. However, infection numbers in the North West of England were found to be rising.
Figures for the week ending 20 March revealed that around one in 340 people in England were infected.
The latest seven-day case rate per 100,000 people in your area, and how this changed compared to the previous week, can be viewed on this interactive map.
While the UK’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been one of the most successful in the world, and this has been a major factor behind the sharp decline of infections since the beginning of the year, the speed of that decline has been slowing.
And the fact that cases are increasing in almost half of the UK's local council areas also offers a reminder that the target dates for ending lockdown are not a given – though it will not be infection numbers alone that drive the final decisions.
Boris Johnson has set a target of 21 June "at the earliest" to lift all restrictions on social contact in England.
Schools in England reopend three weeks ago and on Monday (29 March) rules around meeting outside are set to be relaxed to allow up to six people, or two households, to meet socially outdoors, including in private gardens.
Professor Lawrence Young, Professor of Molecular Oncology at Warwick Medical School, said on Friday it was "inevitable" that infections would start to level off, and even increase, as lockdown restrictions began to be lifted.
He said: "Every change as we slowly release from lockdown is likely to have an effect on the levels of infection
"This is why the roadmap is taking a cautious approach – leaving gaps between each relaxation so that the impact on infections can be carefully monitored.
"We need to remain vigilant particularly keeping an eye on local outbreaks and increases - as evidenced by increased infections in the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber..
"While vaccination and the current lockdown are clearly bringing down overall infection levels, there’s no room for complacency as we lift further restrictions.
"We need to continue the pace of vaccine rollout, effectively spot and stamp out local outbreaks, and prevent compromising the situation by stopping the importation of virus variants.”
These are the areas with highest weekly increases in COVID cases. The number in brackets is the the latest seven-day case rate per 100,000 people:
Shetland Islands, 1400% (65.4)
Torridge, 200% (13.2)
Derbyshire Dales, 184.6% (102.3)
Chichester, 145.8% (48.7)
Eastbourne, 135% (45.3)
Tendring, 125.7% (53.9)
Tunbridge Wells, 110.5% (33.7)
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, 100% (15)
West Dunbartonshire, 97.4% (86.6)
West Lothian, 96.9% (207.5)
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