Stevenage’s coronavirus infection rate is now almost five times what it was in the week leading up to the March lockdown.

As cases across the UK rise, government has announced new rules to stop an “exponential” spread of Covid-19.

Scientists said on Monday that infection rates were doubling every seven days.

In Stevenage, numbers remain low but are nonetheless on the rise.

The borough has not had a hospital death from Covid-19 since May, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Since then, Stevenage has had three coronavirus deaths in 14 weeks, all in care homes.

But in the week up to September 14, the borough recorded an average of 3.3 new cases per day - compared to 0.7 cases per day in the week before lockdown.

If government scientists are correct about the rate of spread then in a month’s time, without intervention, the borough would be recording more than 100 new cases per day.

Despite rising cases, hospital admissions for Covid-19 are significantly lower than they were at the time of the first lockdown.

On March 23, 106 people in the east of England were hospitalised with the virus.

On September 20, only six people were admitted.

But Jeanette Thomas, Stevenage Council’s executive member for health, said there was no evidence Covid had become any less deadly.

“People need to realise that the virus is just as dangerous as it has always been,” she said. “Our figures are showing that the people that are getting it in our region are mainly in the 20-49 group – so they usually get it mildly unless they have an underlying health condition.”

Scientists warned on Monday that infections would inevitably soon spread from younger people to their older, more vulnerable contacts.

They added that current infection rates did not give an accurate picture of the problem, as the incubation period means it usually takes weeks for a carrier to develop symptoms and get tested.

This was what happened during the first lockdown.

Although lockdown began on March 23, confirmed cases continued to rise for weeks.

In Stevenage, the highest daily number of new cases (10) was not recorded until late April.

So the true extent of the latest outbreak will not be known for weeks.

It will take even longer to determine whether new rules have made any difference.