HIGH case rates in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are “mainly linked” to social mixing, according to the director of Public Health Dorset.

At the time of writing, the rate of infection per 100,000 in the BCP Council area was 453.5.

The rate in the UK as a whole was 273.3 and in the south west it stood at 199.6.

And Sam Crowe, director of Public Health Dorset, said: “Cases have been markedly higher in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council than other neighbouring areas and certainly higher than we have seen before.

“Although we are seeing a drop in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 they are not as low as we want or need them to be.

“We still have high numbers of people receiving hospital treatment and sadly a larger number of deaths than we saw in the first wave.

“We know from our data that cases are mainly linked to social mixing and this was certainly true over the Christmas and New Year period. Currently we are seeing cases linked to individual settings such as care homes, workplaces and still many within household groups.

“It only takes one lapse in following the guidance to have an impact which is why we are very insistent that people stay at home above all else.”

Public Health Dorset said the cases linked to social mixing involved people meeting socially when they shouldn’t and whole household cases.

Mr Crowe continued: “With one in three people not having any symptoms, any breaking or bending of the rules could easily see a rise in cases again.

“You may feel fine but if you are not following the correct measures you can easily pass the virus on to someone much more vulnerable with serious consequences.

“To help us find positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission we are broadening testing arrangements to identify those showing no symptoms.

“The first phase of the Dorset Rapid Testing Programme is underway and we will be extending this to employees of businesses, charities and voluntary organisations and those who are self-employed who cannot work from home.

“I’d urge all our residents to remember we are in a national lockdown situation. I know that having restrictions placed on us is not what anyone would want but now more than ever we need residents to follow the advice. If we all stick to the rules we can reduce our number of cases and save lives.”