'Don’t go out' is the stark warning from Oxfordshire's public health chief today as Covid cases hit new heights in the county.

Ansaf Azhar said Oxfordshire is currently 'in the eye of the storm' with infections surging beyond the first wave and showing no sign of improving.

ALSO READ: Covid deaths rise by eight in county and cases climbing

He said: "The prevalence of Covid in Oxfordshire is higher than it has ever been.

"We are in a worse position than at the height of the first wave last spring, and the situation is continuing to deteriorate. 

"In some parts of the county, such as the Hardwick and Ruscote areas of Banbury, we are seeing rates significantly higher than the Cherwell average."

Banbury Cake: Picture: Public Health EnglandPicture: Public Health England

He urged people to stay at home, avoid mixing with other households, and abide by the lockdown rules 'to the letter' to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 locally.

ALSO READ: Map reveals 15 worst hit areas of county for Covid infections

Of particular concern is North Oxfordshire, with Cherwell district seeing rates between 900 and 1,000 per 100,000 people in the past seven days, which puts it in the top 50 coronavirus hotspots in England.

Banbury Cake: Picture: Public Health EnglandPicture: Public Health England

All other parts of Oxfordshire also show high rates compared to before Christmas, though one district has fallen compared to the week before.

Current Covid statistics

Below are the rates per 100,000 of the population in Oxfordshire, and for in each district.

  • Oxfordshire as a whole 563
  • Cherwell 901.6
  • Oxford 585.7
  • South Oxfordshire 438.6
  • West Oxfordshire 415.8
  • Vale of White Horse 412.5

The number of cases in Oxfordshire up to January 1:

  • Oxfordshire as a whole 519.2 
  • Cherwell 756.1 
  • Oxford 469 
  • South Oxfordshire 538.5 
  • West Oxfordshire 403.1 
  • Vale of White Horse 387.5 

Mr Azhar said he aware that people are 'fed up' but stressed the situation was 'exceptionally serious', saying: "We are in the eye of the storm."

Banbury Cake: Ansaf AzharAnsaf Azhar

He added: "The vaccine will not start to have an influence for some weeks and so the only weapon we have against this virus is to stay at home and avoid mixing with people outside of our households.

"We are dealing with a new variant that is extremely infectious and therefore need to be even more careful than last spring."

ALSO READ: 'Exceptionally busy' hospital trust urges patient discharge

The public health had said Covid-19 'loves crowds' and urged people to only go shopping when it is essential, shop alone and shop local, keep two metres apart from others and 'remember that outdoor exercise is only allowed once per day'.

He went on: "Being out and about presents a real risk, so limit the time you are out of the house and take every precaution.

"One in three people with Covid don’t know they have it so act like you’ve got it to reduce the spread. We need people to hear that message loud and clear.

ALSO READ: NHS at ‘breaking point’ as trust now more full than first peak

“I know this is all familiar from the first lockdown last spring, but the strict observation of the rules last March and April helped drive down cases.

"We need to remember that and do the same now.

“We are relying on the people of Oxfordshire as individuals, families and work colleagues to regain control of this virus by doing what is needed.

"I would plead with every individual in the county to look deep inside themselves and honestly ask if they are abiding by the rules. 

ALSO READ: The areas of Oxfordshire with the lowest Covid rates

“Hospitalisations and deaths from the virus are continuing to rise rapidly and we are now seeing more younger people admitted to hospital.

"Please do everything you can to stop the spread. The power to fight back against Covid remains in our own hands.”

Banbury Cake: Victoria PrentisVictoria Prentis

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has also described the situation in Cherwell as 'critical' saying: “The past year has been difficult for everyone. We are all tired and frustrated about the ongoing restrictions. 

ALSO READ: Doctor criticises Government for delayed Covid response

"However, the situation in Cherwell is critical. Approximately one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising. It is more important than ever that we follow the rules and stay at home. 

"We all have a part to play in bringing infection rates down in Cherwell and beyond and can do that by washing our hands regularly, using face coverings and making space."

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