COVID cases across the BCP and Dorset Council areas remain “higher than at any other point during the pandemic”.

Public health authority Public Health Dorset said that hospitalisations have started to rise as a result, but the number of deaths has remained “relatively stable” and lower than during previous waves.

A Public Health Dorset spokesperson said: “Case rates have continued to rise quickly over the past week across Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, and remain higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Infection rates are very high across the country.

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“In Dorset we have started to see hospitalisations related to COVID-19 rise, up to 74 from 55 in a week. Our hospitals and other critical services are also under increasing pressure due to staff absences related to COVID-19.

"The number of deaths related to COVID-19 has remained relatively stable and continue to be much lower than during previous waves of the pandemic.”

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Latest figures show in the seven days to January 1, there were 5,584 infections in the BCP Council area giving a rate of 1,406.6 per 100,000 people, which is above the south west average of 1,243.7.

During the same period, 4,521 cases were confirmed in the Dorset Council area with a rate of 1,190.1.

Both areas have rates below the England average of 1,709.1.

The previous week, there were 4,319 cases at a rate of 1,087.9 in BCP and 2,974 cases in wider Dorset, giving a rate of 783.1.