A HEALTH boss has spoken out after worrying new figures revealed the borough of Barrow was fifth in the country when it came to Covid infection rates.

Colin Cox said around half of the county's cases were in school-age people but hoped that the council's decision to veer away from national guidance regarding self-isolation would help to stem the tide.

Mr Cox, the county's director of public health, was commenting on statistics that showed Barrow had a Covid infection rate of 550 per 100,000 people. Allerdale was top of the list in England, with a rate of 640 per 100,000.

"Schools in Cumbria are doing the very best they can within the framework they have been given," said Mr Cox.

"There is a point at which somebody's got to be top of the table, and it just happens to be Allerdale's turn this time."

In a departure from government guidance, Cumbria County Council is now advising that siblings of children who test positive should also self-isolate and take a Covid test three to five days later. The siblings can then return to school if the result is negative.

"We are hoping that this will start to turn things round," said Mr Cox. "We'll keep it under review.

"Across the country as a whole, case rates are going down. They are not quite going down yet in the North West."

Mr Cox also addressed the question of whether or not he thought there would be another lockdown, saying he felt it was 'unlikely'.

"There is certainly not much appetite for that at a national level," he said.

"The NHS is very, very stretched at the moment but, mainly, not with Covid, and I think the Government will do whatever it can to avoid any further national lockdowns."

He encouraged parents to allow their children to receive a Covid jab, with consent forms having been sent out out to 12-15 year olds via the county's schools and the programme due to begin next week.

"It's safe, it's effective," he said.

"The vaccination will help reduce the risk of them getting it.

"It will reduce the risk of 'long Covid'.

"It will reduce the risk of further disruption to their education."