THERE has been a "significant increase" in confirmed cases of Covid-19 over the last week in County Durham, although hospital admissions for the virus remain low.

The rate of infection in the area is now the highest it has been in months, but remains less than a quarter of the levels reached at the outbreak’s peak in April and May.

But health bosses have urged families to keep complying with social distancing and other rules as workers return to offices and schools reopen.

“The data shows us our seven-day rate was 10.2 per 100,000 on August 26, and that has increased and we’re now at 19.9 per 100,000,” said Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health.

“We’re still a lot lower than some authorities in the North-East, but we are concerned about this increase in the rate across County Durham.

“This is something we need to take very very seriously, as we did in the early days of Covid.

“We are not seeing the increase translated into a huge increase in hospital transmissions, but we are monitoring that very closely.”

Ms Healy was speaking at Friday's meeting of the county council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

According to the latest data, up to September 8 County Durham had had 3,656 cases of coronavirus confirmed since the start of the outbreak, compared to 17,227 across the whole of the North-East.

The panel heard work to halt the spread of the disease in the county is now focusing on social clubs and pubs, following local outbreaks in Consett and Stanley.

The council is working with Sunderland City Council after a charity football match at Burnside Working Men’s Club, near the border between the two local authorities, saw a spike in cases, with the latest confirmed figure taking the total to 61.

However, County Durham is yet to join Sunderland and other parts of Tyne and Wear on the government’s Covid-19 watch list.

“We want to think about where transmission is taking place and where events are happening they take place safely,” Ms Healy added.

“We’re seeing quite a lot of transmission in community settings, so it’s back to the message that it could be any of us and how we protect each other.”