DORSET residents are being urged to go "back to basics" with the key public health measures as coronavirus cases increase.

The county's public health director is asking people to watch their social distance, wash their hands and, if they are in an enclosed space and unable to maintain two-metre distance, wear a face covering.

The number of new positive tests recorded in the BCP Council area over the past week doubled from the previous seven-day period, with it up four-fold for the Dorset Council region.

From September 2 to September 9, the BCP Council area recorded 57 cases, compared with 28 the previous week, while the Dorset Council area recorded 37 positive tests, up from nine.

In terms of rate per 100,000 of the population, BCP Council had a figure of 12.9 for August 29 to September 4 and Dorset Council had a figure of 8 for the seven days. This compares to 10.4 for the south west and 21.9 for England.

In its weekly update, Public Health Dorset said, in line with the national trend, data shows that cases have risen in both the Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council areas.

The health authority said it is monitoring all data to understand whether the rise is a temporary or continuing trend in order to respond accordingly.

A statement from Public Health Dorset added: "We are adapting our public information messaging to reflect this rise in cases, reminding residents to continue to follow public health measures in order to prevent further transmission.

"We have local outbreak management plans in place and we are continuously working with local partners to identify any local outbreaks and take any necessary actions."

Situation in care homes

Public Health Dorset said there had been an increase in the number of care homes with positive cases identified through routine whole care home testing. The situation is being monitored by adult social care, NHS Dorset CCG and the care homes themselves.

The local care home visiting policy is due to be reviewed early next week. For the time being visits to care homes can continue as long as the sites follow a "robust risk assessment" in line with national guidance.

Situation in schools

In terms of schools, Public Health Dorset said it was aware of a number of cases associated with educational establishments and it had been working closely with the affected schools and Public Health England South West to ensure any necessary measures are taken.

The authority said affected schools had communicated directly with parents and carers regarding any changes to educational provision.

Public Health Dorset's statement added: "Any close contacts of cases have been contacted and advised to self-isolate. Members of the school community do not need to self-isolate and should not get tested unless specifically directed to do so."

Overall Dorset picture

Providing an assessment on the current situation in the county, Sam Crowe, director of public health for Dorset and BCP Councils, said: "This week we are definitely seeing more cases of coronavirus. We were really lucky through July and August we probably saw two to three cases a day across each council.

"We are now seeing perhaps six or seven cases a day in each council, so a definite upturn in cases.

"Most of those cases we know are linked with travel and we've got a really high completion rate through Test and Trace at the moment, so we are confident that we are managing to follow up on all of those cases and their contacts, and limit the further spread of the virus.

"But as schools go back this week, it is a really good reminder that we do have to go back to basics.

"Remember those core public health messages of watching your distance, washing your hands and, if you are in an enclosed space where you can't maintain a two-metre social distance, wear a mask.

"That's not just because we need to break transmission of the virus but also some of the consequences of the Test and Trace system.

"What we know this week from schools going back is that most have returned safely with no incidences at all.

"But where we do have the odd case of coronavirus connected with a school, we have to work through on a case-by-case basis to take prompt action where we need to.

"If you have a positive case in a workplace setting like a school, if you've been a little bit more relaxed about your social distancing, you may get caught up in that requirement for close contacts to self-isolate.

"If that happens to a small school, that can be the difference between continuing to stay open or having to close just because of the number of staff that would have to be asked to self-isolate.

"It is rising slightly, we're continuing to monitor the situation very, very closely. We will be doing more communications this week just to remind people of the basic messages and we will be keeping a very close eye on it over the next few weeks."