Which Herts communities have seen the biggest rises and falls in COVID-19?

Covid-19 testing centre stock image

Coronavirus cases are falling across Hertfordshire - but some villages are seeing infection rates shoot up and experts say the county is 'not out of the woods'. - Credit: PA Wire / Andrew Milligan

Hertfordshire’s coronavirus infection rate fell by almost a third in one week, according to Government figures, but some of the county’s villages are still seeing cases rise.  

Data up to January 15 showed the number of confirmed infections in Herts had fallen by 2,844 – or 30.2 per cent – compared to the week before.  

But, said Tim Hutchings, Hertfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for public health, “we are not breaking the champagne out just yet".

The county still had 6,581 confirmed cases on that date, giving an infection rate of 553.2 per 100,000 people.  

By Friday, January 22, the county council was dealing with 174 “outbreaks” linked to schools, workplaces and other venues. It was also investigating another 745 coronavirus-related “situations”. 

“I think if we had envisaged these numbers back in October, we would have been horrified,” said Cllr Hutchings. 

“They are still way too high,” agreed Jim McManus, the county’s director of public health. “The message is, stay at home.” 

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Where infections are falling

Cases were falling not only at a county level, but also at a borough and district level, which Mr McManus described as “really welcome news”. 

Every borough and district in Hertfordshire recorded a reduction of more than 20 per cent in confirmed COVID-19 infections in the week up to January 15.  

The biggest drop was in Broxbourne, whose infection rate plummeted by 42 per cent. 

However, its infection rate – 719.6 cases per 100,000 people – remained high enough to put it in the second worst category nationally.  

East Herts saw cases fall by 35.7 per cent, to 444.1 cases per 100,000, and St Albans by 35.5 per cent to 388.7 per 100,000.  

Three Rivers’ infection rate was down by 24.5 per cent, to 501.5 cases per 100,000.  

The smallest reductions were in Stevenage, Welwyn and Hatfield, and North Herts. 

Stevenage and Welwyn and Hatfield each saw infection rates fall by 22.7 per cent.  

In Stevenage this meant the infection rate was 679 cases per 100,000 residents. In Welwyn and Hatfield it was 698.9.  

North Herts saw cases fall by 20.7 per cent to 468.7 cases per 100,000.  

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire, said that while cases were falling, they remained far too high. - Credit: Archant / LewisA

And where they are rising

Despite the overall decreases, some communities saw sharp rises, primarily in village communities.  

In Welham Green, 27 new cases brought the total to 66 – a 69.2 per cent rise.  

That gave the village the highest infection rate in Hertfordshire – equivalent to 1,151.4 cases per 100,000 people.  

Anything over 800 cases per 100,000 is considered to be in the worst category, nationally. Another three Herts villages fell into that bracket. 

Royston North and Central saw cases rise by 10.4 per cent to 53 – meaning its infection rate hit 916.9 cases per 100,000.  

Buntington and Great Hormead saw a 23 per cent growth, with cases hitting 75 – meaning its infection rate was 896.9 cases per 100,000.  

In Woodside and Leavesden Green, the number of confirmed cases rose by 20 in one week – an increase of 46.5 per cent.  

This gave the village an infection rate of 847.2 cases per 100,000 people.  

Bricket Wood and Chiswell Green, saw a 15.6 per cent rise, giving an infection rate of 660.2 per 100,000. Abbotts Langley was up 11.8 per cent, to 421.8 per 100,000. 

Welham Green

On January 15, Welham Green village had the highest Covid-19 infection rate in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Archant

Why the difference? 

Public health director Jim McManus said that in smaller communities, a tiny number of cases could “skew the numbers”.  

However, he said data showed outbreaks in rural, village areas in Hertfordshire were being caused by “a mix of care homes, workplace outbreaks and onward transmission within households. 

“What we seem to have in Welham Green is a number of people who worked in places where there have been outbreaks and that has translated into household transmission; a number of people who attribute it to shopping; several care home outbreaks.” 

In order to continue bringing the numbers down across Hertfordshire, he said, children should go to school only if they “absolutely cannot stay at home”.  

“We still are seeing too many infections coming through from supermarkets,” he added, advising shoppers to “keep your distance”.