THE coronavirus infection rate in Herefordshire has tripled over the last week, new figures show.

It comes as a top UK professor warns the UK was at risk of a "substantial" third wave of coronavirus infections.

In Herefordshire, the rate of new cases per 100,000 people rose to 24.4 in the seven days to June 5, the latest data available.

That was near three times higher than a rate of 8.3 the week before.

However, the rate was still far below a peak of 372.9 in January.

The rise was due to 47 new cases being found in the week to June 5, more than the 16 the week before.

The infection rate figures werebased on the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in either a lab-reported or rapid lateral flow test, by specimen date, and expressed as the number of new cases per 100,00 people.

Of the 315 local areas in England, 256 (81%) have seen a rise in rates, 56 (18%) have seen a fall and three are unchanged.

Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire continues to have the highest rate, with 867 new cases in the seven days to June 5 – the equivalent of 579.2 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 438.9 in the seven days to May 29.

Rossendale in Lancashire has the second highest rate, up slightly from 312.0 to 320.4, with 229 new cases.

Bolton in Greater Manchester has the third highest, down from 378.4 to 310.6, with 893 new cases.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 7,540 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, the highest single-day rise since February 26.

The Government also said six more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 127,860.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

It comes afterProfessor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK locking down in March 2020, said new modelling data submitted to the Government suggested a risk of “a substantial third wave” of coronavirus infections in the UK.

Prof Ferguson said that delaying full reopening on June 21 would make a difference as it would allow “more people to get second doses”.

He said there was “reasonably good data” on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines with regards to hospital admissions, which was “in the 90 to 95% range” for the Alpha (UK) variant and “around 90%” in the Delta (Indian) variant.

Professor Neil Ferguson said that modelling suggested there were benefits to “getting more vaccines into more arms as it reduces the scale of any third wave”.

He said: “I think, more critically, in the next two or three weeks we will be in a better position to really refine those estimates in terms of, saying ‘OK, those early projections may have been too optimistic or pessimistic’ … and that will be driven by just observing hospitalisations and, unfortunately, some deaths.”