WORCESTERSHIRE now has more cases of Covid-19 than at any other time during the pandemic.

Bromsgrove, Redditch and Worcester city in particular have high numbers of positive cases, according to the latest figures, which Public Health bosses say is putting pressure on local NHS services and "risking the lives of our most vulnerable and elderly residents".

Worcester's infection rate of 768.6 is the highest in the district and, for the seven days up to January 9, saw the 8th highest week-on-week increase in England - from 540.4 in the week up to January 2.

Bromsgrove's infection rate has risen to 654.8 per 100,000 people compared to 540.6 a week earlier.

In Redditch, the rate stands at 613.4 - up from 517.2 the week before.

Wychavon's infection rate has increased to 524.6, compared to a rate of 385.5 seven days earlier.

Wyre Forest now has an infection rate of 492.6. A week earlier, it was 433.4.

Malvern has the lowest rate in the county with 299.9, but that is still an increase on the 252.9 recorded a week earlier.

Director of Public Health in Worcestershire, Dr Kathryn Cobain, says residents all need to ask themselves if they really need to be out and about.

"Every interaction with someone else is a risk," said Dr Cobain. "We are seeing the number of infections continue to rise, and our data tells us this is through community mixing.

"So, the key thing right now is to minimise the number of unnecessary contacts we have.

"Ask yourself is it necessary for you to leave your home. Do you really need to go out?

"Every time we mix we are creating a serious risk, because we could be passing the virus on, and eventually that could reach someone who will become seriously ill.

"Instead, ask yourself is there an alternative available. The individual choices we make really do make a difference.

"Where you have to go out, please make sure you are following the rules, stay two metres apart, wear your face covering properly over the nose and mouth and wash your hands when you get home.

"If you act like you have the virus, and act like everyone else has it too, you are going to really help reduce the risk of this virus spreading.”

The rising numbers of cases are causing concern for the county's health services and NHS, whose staff are working relentlessly to offer care for those most seriously affected by the virus.

Mike Hallissey, chief medical officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “The message is very clear – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

"I would ask that everyone in our local communities sticks to the rules and only leaves home if absolutely necessary.

“Our doctors, nurses and healthcare staff are working long hours in very difficult circumstances to care for growing numbers of seriously ill patients.

"The number of patients with Covid in our hospitals is now significantly higher than it was during the first wave of the pandemic.

"We have had to expand our intensive care facilities at both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals to deal with the sickest patients, and colleagues from other wards and departments have stepped in to support our intensive care teams.

"Despite all their efforts, sadly, we are seeing patients die every day of as a result of Covid-19 infection.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel with the roll-out of the vaccine though the impact of this will only be seen as the numbers who have received it rise over the months ahead.

"Therefore, it is even more important than ever to reduce the spread of infection and preventing avoidable deaths must be everyone’s top priority.”