HEALTH leaders in Dorset are aiming for the county to come out of the national coronavirus lockdown still in the lowest tier of restrictions, councillors have been told.

With both local authority areas still below the English average for infections, Dorset public health director Sam Crowe said planning was being based on staying in Tier 1.

Speaking at a meeting of the BCP Council scrutiny board, he said he was “well aware” that cases needed to reduce but there was a “continual need” to balance this with the economic impact.

For the seven days ending November 12, the rate of coronavirus infection per 100,000 people was 241 in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, compared to 109 for the rest of the county.

About 14,000 people are being tested each week with the latest figures showing 138 people are being treated in hospital.

Confirmed infections are most frequent in the 16-29 age group with the figure rising to more than 500 in early November following a fall at the end of last month.

But Mr Crowe told councillors the rate of 145 per 100,000 in the over-60s category was “more concerning”.

Although cases have been reported in dozens of schools and care homes, he said this was being “well managed” and that the most frequent place of exposure to the virus was within households.

He said figures published this week would begin to show what impact the national lockdown has had.

But he said planning being done with officials was aimed at the county remaining in the lowest category of restrictions when it ends next month.

“The plan at the moment is to try and stay within the Tier 1 restrictions as much as possible but we’re well aware that, if our case rate remains relatively high, there will be an expectation that we have a very clear plan to try and reduce this,” he said.

 “We will continue to meet regularly to review the position and develop clear messaging to our communities to make sure we are well stood up if and when national measures are lifted.”

He said that after the lockdown is ended work would focus on a “contain and enable strategy” with a “likely” focus on distributing rapid tests and focused “engagement work” in areas where infection is higher.

“As we come out of lockdown there will be a continual need to balance those public health messages with a new to keep the economy going safely,” he added. “That will be a key strand of anything we do after December 2.”