AFTER being in lockdown since the start of the year, recent weeks have seen lockdown easing bring back a limited number of our freedoms.

Dorset's toughest phase of the pandemic to date was in January when case numbers rocketed, hospitals were under immense pressure and many families lost loved ones.

Now, just over a week from the next easing of restrictions, the situation with Covid across the county continues to head in the right direction in terms of case numbers, hospitalisations, deaths, vaccinations and test positivity.

Public Health Dorset has reported that seven-day rolling case rates in both the BCP Council and Dorset Councila areas, 17.2 cases per 100,000 and 28.5 cases per 100,000, have fallen.

These rates are below the average for the south west and significantly lower than the England average.

However, a Public Health Dorset spokesperson warned: "Whilst it is good news that our case rates have fallen over recent weeks, as restrictions start to ease it's more important than ever to remain vigilant. In the last few months we have seen how quickly things can change. 

"This week saw restrictions on social contact start to be eased, with people now able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people, or two households. Please remember that you still need to maintain social distancing when meeting others, and only meet in outside spaces where the risk of transmission is much lower than indoors.

"Whilst many of us are looking forward to doing more of the things we enjoy and seeing the people we love over the coming months, it's important to remember that we need to take each step safely as we continue to live with COVID-19."

Below are five graphs which highlight the progress that is being made in the fight against Covid-19.

1. Case numbers

Comparing the Covid case numbers from January to March shows the impact the lockdown had on reducing the spread of the virus.

Throughout the first few weeks of 2021, Dorset was recording several hundred cases every single day.

In March, the peak day in terms of cases saw just 51 positive tests.

Case numbers have not showed any signs of increasing since schools reopened on March 8 and the signs look positive ahead of the next easing in the roadmap later this month.

2. Recorded deaths​

In January, 35 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 died on a single day in Dorset.

Since March 14, there have been 12 days with no deaths recorded according to the latest Government data.

3. Vaccination progress​

Based on the most recent Office for National Statistics population estimates, at least 86 per cent of people in the following age groups has had one dose of the Covid vaccine: 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80+.

As of March 28, 479,858 Covid vaccine doses had been administered in Dorset. 40,005 residents across the county have now had both doses.

4. Hospital occupancy​

As reported, hospitals in Dorset saw Covid admissions surge in early January, with University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) treating more than 402 Covid patients on January 19.

However, since the final week of January the number of people in hospital with coronavirus has dropped significantly.

The last 10 days of March saw single digit Covid patient numbers at UHD, as well as teh county's other trusts.

On Tuesday, March 30, Dorset County Hospital had no beds occupied with Covid patients.

Throughout the pandemic more than 2,200 Covid patients have been discharged from UHD and staff have been able to start tackling the waiting list for elective procedures.

Note: Public Health Dorset said NHS Digital was unable to undertake the usual checks for data on February 23, so this should be considered when looking at that day's figures.

5. Test positivity

The rolling seven-day average rate of test positivity across both the Dorset Council and the BCP Council area fell below one per cent in the past week, according the Government data.

In the current testing regime when anyone with symptoms should get tested, the postivity rate peaked at 18.8 per cent for BCP Council on January 13 and 10.9 per cent for Dorset Council on January 5.

The World Health Organisation considers below five per cent as an indication that the pandemic is under control.

The latest available test positivity across England is two per cent.