BARNSLEY is still in a ‘precarious’ position despite the town’s dwindling coronavirus infection rate, the borough’s health bosses have warned.

Since the start of November, the town’s seven-day coronavirus rate has been on a downward spiral, heading from 556.2 positive cases per 100,000 population at November’s peak, to just 136.9 per 100,000 as of December 8.

Despite this, the current trend is levelling out and the rate in over 65s is starting to once again increasing, prompting Julia Burrows, Barnsley’s director of public health, to warn residents of the Christmas period mixing.

She said: “The decreasing trend we have been seeing recently now seems to be slowing down and levelling out.

“We are also seeing the rates in over 65-year-olds starting to increase again, which has serious implications for serious illness and hospital admission.

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“We know that the pressure on Barnsley Hospital is not getting better, so combined, this puts Barnsley in a rather precarious position as we move towards the Christmas period when more household mixing will take place and people are affected by the usual winter illnesses.”

The town has been also been accepted to be part of the community testing programme outlined by the government for tier three areas, allowing health bosses to selectively test asymptomatic residents and workers - though a negative test should not be seen as a free pass as the new rapid tests have been providing some ‘false negative’ results.

“Testing needs to happen alongside other vital elements such as effective contact tracing, full adherence to and support for self-isolation, social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings,” she added.

“Similarly, a negative test should not be seen as a free pass - if that happens, we could potentially increase risk through more testing than decrease it.

“We know the new lateral flow rapids tests provide a proportion of ‘false negative’ results, and even ‘true negatives’ are only accurate for the specific time at which the test is taken.

“It is, therefore, crucial to keep following guidance on social distancing, hand washing and face coverings irrespective of a negative test result.”

The coronavirus vaccination programme is also being rolled out across the borough, with residents over 80 set to receive the vaccination in the near future.

“We are working closely with partners in health to ensure that our most vulnerable residents, starting with those over 80, receive the vaccination over the coming weeks,” Ms Burrows added.

“In the meantime, the advice to everyone is to wait until you are called for a vaccine over the coming months.”

A total of 425 coronavirus-related deaths have been registered in the town as of November 27, with 11,126 positive tests across the borough to date.