CUMBRIA'S public health chief has appealed to residents for ways to curb Covid-19's spread in Barrow, as the town's infection rates begin to rise again in a significant way.

Although not yet sufficiently acute to warrant a 'local lockdown', Colin Cox, the county's director of public health, said the virus' current rate of spread in Barrow was 'of real concern'.

According to the latest available testing data for the town - between Monday, September 7 and Sunday, September 13 - the current per capita rate of infection stands at just over 50 per 100,000.

This puts Barrow above the national average rate for Covid-19 transmission within the community and represents the highest incidence levels recorded in Cumbria 'for quite some time'.

Consequently, discussions over new measures to limit Covid-19's spread in Furness are currently under way among health officials and political leaders within the south of the county.

Mr Cox also moved yesterday to allay fears over local lockdown measures - similar to the current restrictions in place across parts of Greater Manchester - being imposed in Barrow in the immediate term.

"The challenge, I think, is this not looking like it's one single outbreak - it's not connected to one single place or set of people or events," he said.

"It's a community-wide issue, this - so, lots of isolated things springing up within the community - and it seems to be coming from issues that are unconnected.

"Because it's not a single outbreak, it's not as simple as just saying, 'If we close this shop or this pub, then it will simply go away'."

The effort to contain the virus has been made all the more difficult by shortages in availability of testing across south Cumbria, as well as other parts of the county.

Although 'hundreds of people' are reportedly being seen to daily at the mobile testing site stationed in the BAE Systems car park area, a considerable number of residents have encountered difficulties booking a test in Furness.

One man reported having to travel to Blackburn last week in order to get tested.

The numerous accounts of difficulties accessing a test locally come as government figures suggest infection rates having more than tripled across all age groups nationally since the end of July.

Mr Cox said that, although the rapid spread of Covid-19 could not be traced to a single source, it appears likely much of the intra-community transmission is the result of asymptomatic carriers passing on the virus.

"A lot of what we're seeing is asymptomatic transmission. So a lot of it is down to people passing on the virus unwittingly.

"I'd be very interested to hear what people's views in Barrow are as to how we can limit this going forward.

"We are currently discussing what our next steps will be with the Health Protection Board. It's possible that arising from that we might be asking people in Barrow to do something different.

"At the very least, we'll be urging people to limit their social contact.

"To be clear, though, we're talking about what help we can get in Barrow - we've always sought to tackle this virus through community participation and consent."