The director of public health in Hertfordshire says "nationwide" issues with testing is "undoubtedly having an impact" on the number of recorded cases locally.

According to the government's dashboard, coronavirus rates in south west Hertfordshire have soared over the last week or so, with hundreds of new cases found – but, reassuringly, the cases may not actually be in the county.

Instead, the rates locally may have been dramatically inflated by university students who are registering positive results in their hometown rather than their university address.

The leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, Morris Bright, said last week it was his understanding that cases in his borough may have been spiked by students away from home, with Watford’s mayor Peter Taylor admitting his town has experienced a similar issue.

And St Albans District Council posted on its social channels today: “Parents of uni students, if they contract Covid please ensure they give their address as the place they are currently living, rather than their 'home' address.

“This will help get resources to the right area of the country. We are seeing cases 100s of miles away reported here.”

Following a rapid rise in cases in Hertsmere last week, Councillor Tim Hutchings, cabinet member for public health in Hertfordshire, said the council knew people in the 17 to 24 age group accounted for a “substantial proportion” of extra cases in the borough, so “inevitably” some are likely to be university students.

But at the time, the council was unable to identify how many of these were people not currently living in Hertfordshire – and a week later, director of public health, Jim McManus says investigations remain ongoing.

Mr McManus told this paper: “There is a nationwide issue with some students’ positive coronavirus tests being attributed to their permanent home address rather than their term-time address, and this is undoubtedly having an impact on the reported figures for Hertfordshire.

“We are still analysing the data and working closely with Public Health England to understand the exact effect on our local figures.”

Although figures may have been inflated, Mr McManus is keen to stress there are still active cases locally.

He added: “It is important to remember that even excluding students, the number of cases is continuing to rise across all age groups and areas of Hertfordshire and it’s important that we all play our part to control the spread of coronavirus.”

Borehamwood Times:

Credit: PA

Data published on the government’s coronavirus dashboard today shows Three Rivers district currently has the highest weekly rate of Covid-19 cases in Hertfordshire, with a rate of 107.2 cases per 100,000 population.

This rate of 107.2 is equivalent to 100 cases, and is ten times higher than it was in the district at the end of August.

Three Rivers' rate is closely followed by Hertsmere at 91.5, Watford’s 80.8, St Albans’ 74.8, and Dacorum’s 71.1.

Between October 1 and 8, figures on the dashboard show a combined total of at least 600 cases across the five areas – but it’s unclear at this stage how many of these 600 plus cases are actually local.

The majority of cases “found” between October 2 and 8 were people living in specific wards such as Bushey Heath (21 cases), Radlett (16) Bricket Wood & Chiswell Green (15), Bovingdon & Chipperfield (13) Boxmoor & Apsley (13) Carpenders Park (13) Longacres (St Albans) (12) and Croxley Green (12).

There were also many cases during this time period across other wards in Watford, St Albans, Borehamwood, Rickmansworth, Hemel Hempstead, and Harpenden.

Below is a table of the latest daily cases - it's unknown how many of these cases are actually local and how many are uni students not currently living in Hertfordshire.

Meanwhile, Watford’s mayor has called for track and trace systems to be run by local public health professionals, rather than having it led nationally.

This afternoon, a new three-tier strategy of local lockdown measures for England was announced by Boris Johnson in efforts to curb rising Covid-19 rates.

Different areas of England will be split up into medium, high and very high alert levels.

Hertfordshire has been placed into tier one (medium).

This means Hertfordshire residents will not face any new restrictions but will have to continue to abide by the current rules and laws in place, which includes the ‘rule of six’, wearing face coverings, and pubs, bars, and restaurants closing at 10pm.