THE number of patients at Barnsley Hospital with Covid-19 is at its highest in months just days after free testing was scrapped by the government.

Last week, all PCR testing centres in Barnsley were closed to the public and they will remain shut unless there’s another surge in cases across the country.

Carrie Abbott, service director for public health and regulatory services at the council, said: “As we move through the changes within the living with Covid-19 plan, it’s important that we are all aware that public health guidance surrounding Covid-19 remains the same.

“Following safe behaviours have been one of the key tools we’ve had in Barnsley to help reduce the spread of the virus and keep everyone in our communities safe and will be a massive part in how we live with Covid-19 safely going forward.

“I strongly urge everyone in Barnsley to continue getting vaccinated, wearing a face covering in areas that are busier and indoors, welcoming fresh air into their meet-ups and washing their hands regularly.

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“By working together, we can manage these next steps safely.”

Latest figures show more than a quarter of all residents taking a PCR test where swabs have to be taken to a lab were receiving a positive result in the seven-day period ending March 25.

That’s the highest figure since early January when rates and hospitalisations were at an all-time high but numbers are now starting to rise again.

Barnsley’s Covid infection rate is currently 684.1per 100,000 residents as more than 1,400 people have tested positive for the virus in the last seven days.

It’s a 23 per cent increase on the previous infection rate last month and one of the highest since late January a time when the government were threatening to put the country back into lockdown.

There’s also been a huge increase in the number of hospitalisations in the past week as there’s now 78 patients in the hospital with the virus.

However, Barnsley’s vaccination figures are on the rise as more than half a million vaccines have been administered since the start of the pandemic.

Almost 190,000 have had one jab, more than 178,000 are double jabbed and almost two thirds of the town have had all three available vaccines.

Julia Burrows, the town’s director of public health, has praised the roll-out and is asking more residents to continue to get the vaccine.

“Covid-19 rates in Barnsley, across Yorkshire and nationally are very high.

“Although testing has reduced, and we don’t know the exact figures, the ONS estimates that around one in 13 people are infected.

“This is leading to high numbers of people in hospital, care homes and other healthcare settings with Covid-19.

“It is also causing major disruption to schools, other services and workplaces, as staff absence due to Covid-19 has risen with overall rates.

“Although this is posing major challenges, the good news is that the vaccine remains effective and most people in hospital with Covid-19 are not poorly because of it (but are in for other reasons).

“It’s also important to remember that the basic measures of hands, face, space and ventilation remain very effective and can keep infections down and protect the most vulnerable.”