Hertsmere's latest coronavirus infection rate is the lowest it has been since October, according to figures published by Public Health England.

The borough recorded 111 cases over the seven days to February 15 which is around ten times lower than over New Year, with rates in Borehamwood the lowest they have been for weeks and weeks.

The latest data is hugely encouraging ahead of the Prime Minister's big announcement today on how lockdown measures will be eased in England.

Hertsmere had one of the highest infection rates in England in December after a new more infectious strain of Covid swept across the south and east of England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock plunged the borough and the districts of Three Rivers and Watford into Tier 3 on December 14, with the areas under the harshest lockdown measures ever since.

Hertsmere's drop into Tier 3 was actually driven by outbreaks in Bushey rather than in Borehamwood in late November and early December, but by Christmas and New Year, the virus was well and truly spreading across Borehamwood and the surrounding villages.

But the lockdown measures appear to have worked and after weeks of steady decline, the weekly infection rate in Hertsmere is approaching 100 cases per 100,000 population for the first time since mid-October.

Borehamwood Times:

How infection rates in Borehamwood compare between first week of Jan (top) and mid-Feb (below). Purple indicates high rates.

The infection rate tipped over 1,000 cases per 100,000 in the first week to January, mainly due to outbreaks in the Hillside and Cowley Hill areas of Borehamwood, as well as in Elstree, Radlett, Potters Bar, and Bushey.

But the rate sat at 105.8 (111 cases) for the seven days to February 15, which is below the average for England of 128.5.

The rate has dropped despite testing facilities in the town increasing after the testing centre at Hertsmere's Civic Offices became seven-days-a-week and a walk-in facility at the site also opened.

Similarly low numbers of cases have been reported for Hertsmere between February 16 and 19 and across the rest of south west Hertfordshire.

Although the virus has been brought under control, new cases are still being picked up locally and public health officials continue to urge people to stick by the rules to bring case numbers down further and prevent new outbreaks.

Borehamwood Times:

Testing centre for people with Covid symptoms in Borehamwood. Credit: Hertsmere BC

Rapid testing is one of Hertfordshire County Council's most crucial ways of reducing the spread of the disease, with sites cropping up all around the county designed to let a key worker know if they unknowingly have Covid.

Rapid testing is next available in Borehamwood between March 3 and 6 at 96 Shenley Road. Full booking details and other sites can be found here.

Although infection rates are falling across the country, the Prime Minister has said the Government will be "cautious" in its approach to easing lockdown.

He will address MP's in the Commons this afternoon before addressing the nation at 7pm.

Four key tests will need to be met as restrictions are gradually relaxed across the country over the coming weeks, including the success of the vaccinaton rollout, reducing Covid hospitilsations, deaths, and cases, and the impact of any new variant.

More than 70,000 over 70s living in west Hertfordshire received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by February 14, according to NHS figures, while newer figures published on February 18 revealed 322,286 people across the whole of Hertfordshire and west Essex have received their first dose.

The number of Covid patients being cared for at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has reduced from a high of 347 on January 12 to 125 on February 16.

However, the trust continues to record deaths of patients who died within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

There have been 863 deaths since the pandemic began, including more than 50 in February and more than 250 in January.