A SPIKE in coronavirus cases in Oxford has prompted the county’s director of public health to urge social distancing to avoid local control measures.

In the week up to July 24, the number of new cases in the city more than tripled to 31, with the majority of positive tests in East Oxford.

A rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 on Monday showed there were 20.1 positive tests for the virus per 100,000 people last week, up from 6.5 the week before.

It placed Oxford as 15th in England, with the highest Blackburn with Darwen at 75.2.

Oxfordshire’s Director of Public Health Ansaf Azhar reassured the city was ‘nowhere near’ introducing restrictions but the county was monitoring the situation ‘very closely’ and would put measures in place if the number of new cases continued to rise.

The health official said local increases were to be expected as we ease out of lockdown, particularly in densely populated urban areas, saying: “This is consistent with the picture across other parts of the country, and Oxford is no exception.”

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But with more events and gatherings set to take place over the coming weeks, such as Eid celebrations and a range of fairs across Oxfordshire, Mr Azhar stressed the need for everyone to maintain social distancing and the spike was a 'stark reminder' the virus was still out there.

He said: “It is up to each of us to stop the virus spreading - our safety is literally in our own hands. Make sure you wash your hands regularly, avoid busy gatherings, keep your distance and wear a face covering where appropriate.”

The public health head stressed anyone with any coronavirus symptoms must self-isolate immediately and call 119 to book a test.


Oxfordshire Director of Public Health, Ansaf Azhar

He added while East Oxford had been a recent hotspot 'early indications' were these were household clusters and people could have caught the virus anywhere.

He said: “We need to act now to stop the spread. We have seen other towns, such as Luton and Northampton, put local control measures in place when faced with a spike in cases, such as limiting the number of people who can meet.

"We are not yet in this position. But we are monitoring the situation very closely and we will put measures in place if the number of new cases continues to rise.”

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Mr Azhar said the county had clear systems in place through its Local Outbreak Plans to manage any transmission hotspots but said prevention is ‘by far’ the best way to manage the situation.

He added: “My advice is simple – act now to protect yourself, protect your community, and stop the spread.”

A roadmap for how Oxfordshire will deal with local outbreaks was published earlier this month.

It contains measures such as identifying high-risk places and communities, as well as the potential for pop-up testing sites and ensuring vulnerable people told to self-isolate due to test and trace are supported.