SEXUALLY transmitted infection rates plunged in Redditch as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, figures suggest.

Fewer people having sex during lockdowns and disruption to health services contributed to a steep drop in STI diagnoses in England last year, experts say.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV warned that the latest figures could represent "the tip of the iceberg".

Public Health England data shows 359 STIs were diagnosed in Redditch in 2020 – 18 per cent fewer than the year before.

It meant 420 in every 100,000 people in the area were infected with diseases including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

However, that rate was down from 2019, when 514 in 100,000 people in Redditch were diagnosed with an STI.

The most common infection in the area was chlamydia with 195 cases found in 2020. A further 62 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed, as well as four of syphilis, 31 of genital herpes and 29 of genital warts.

Dr John McSorley, president of BASHH, said the national drop in diagnoses highlighted the impact Covid-19 has had on sexual health services.

He added: "Whilst a drop in the number of new infections appears positive, it is important to remember that England entered the Covid pandemic with the highest rates of some STIs since the Second World War.

"This data therefore likely represents the tip of the iceberg.

"STIs haven't gone away, chains of infections haven't been broken."

The national drop reflects a combination of reduced STI testing as a result of pandemic-influenced disruption to sexual health services and changes in sexual behaviour since March 2020, according to a PHE report.

It said testing and diagnoses decreased across all infections during the first year of the pandemic, but sexual health services continued to diagnose hundreds of thousands of infections after scaling up telephone and internet consultations during lockdown periods.