STRICTER lockdown measures across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole can be avoided if people “follow the rules”, the council’s new cabinet member for the coronavirus response has said.

Councillor Nicola Greene said the rate of infection – the highest of any upper tier council area in the South West – was “serious” but that it could be brought under control.

She said work was still ongoing to get a full understanding of why cases are significantly higher in the conurbation than its neighbours but that there had been clusters in workplaces, schools and universities.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole was placed in the lowest “medium” tier of the government’s new regulations brought in on Monday.

But with a further 105 confirmed infections on Tuesday, the area now has one of the highest rates in the South West with Bournemouth particularly badly affected.

“Work is underway to analyse exactly where those cases are, in order to build the bigger picture of intelligence,” Cllr Greene said.

“There will always be transmission in those household bubble and we’ve also seen cases at a few workplaces and educational settings – both schools and universities.

“We’re at a point – as is the whole country – where things are poised. We haven’t had a lockdown yet and if everybody follows the rules then we can stay in the tier we’re in.”

She said there had been confirmed spreading of the virus in the area by people who have not followed the government guidance.

Cllr Greene added that there was not yet clarity over how decisions on escalating restrictions are made by the government but that a continued rise could lead to the BCP Council area being moved into the “high” tier of restrictions.

Should this be the case, households would no longer be allowed to mix indoors.

Sam Crowe, the council’s director of public health, said there was a need for people to “follow all the guidelines” to avoid stronger restrictions being put in place.

“We have seen a significant increase in case numbers and case rates in recent weeks, particularly in the Bournemouth area,” he said.

“Whilst these have so far been mostly contained within household bubbles, specific workplaces and education settings, if the current rate at which cases are rising continues, we are at risk of the virus spreading more widely amongst people, known as community transmission. To prevent this, people must follow the rules.

“While there is no immediate need for increased restrictions like we’re seeing in other areas, it is vital we all follow all the guidelines otherwise we will start to see stronger measures here.”