Shops and schools are among the most common places to pick up the COVID-19 virus in Hertfordshire, according to the latest data.

Latest local contact tracing data – analysed by public health officials – suggests that 289 cases recorded over the past week have been picked up in shops.

Meanwhile 296 pupils, students or staff are believed to have picked up the virus while at school, college or university, and 124 have contracted the virus from pubs or restaurants.

Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus says that – based on national infection levels – every trip to the shops is now likely to include contact with at least one person with the virus.

Mr McManus added that those who have been infected by COVID-19 while shopping have said they may not have properly ‘distanced’ in stores or taken the necessary precautions.

The data was made available on Wednesday, November 4 – just hours before the latest national restrictions were due to come into force.

Without the restrictions, the latest modelling suggests the number of COVID-19 deaths in the county could reach a peak of 32 a day in February, but as a result of the restrictions it’s estimated that the peak daily death rate in the county could reduce to four.

In addition, it is said that the lower peak figure would not be reached until March, and that would reduce deaths in the county overall – and take pressure away from hospitals.

The modelling estimates that the latest restrictions will reduce infection rates by 40 per cent, which is lower than the 70 per cent estimated to have resulted from the previous ‘lockdown’ in the spring, reflecting the decision to keep schools and universities open.

Highlighting scientific evidence that pointed to the harm associated with not being in education, Mr McManus said there was a ‘balance’ to be made.

Support in place for education settings in Hertfordshire includes a seven day helpdesk and guidance, with support from infection control nurses, environmental health officers and health and safety managers – representing £1.2m in staff time and expertise.

Nationally the rate of infection stands at around 242.9 per 100,000. In Hertfordshire the rate continues to increase but is less than half of the national level, at around 116.43 per 100,000.