A lack of lateral flow tests is masking the real number of Covid cases in Herefordshire, a Ledbury councillor has claimed.

Government figures show a steep rise in the amount of Covid cases in the county, with the latest figures showing a total of 2,586 cases in Herefordshire in the seven days to January 2, a 92% increase on the previous week.

But Councillor Liz Harvey, who represents Ledbury North on Herefordshire Council, said the figures, which show the number of people with confirmed positive test results, don’t give the full picture.

“This is a significant underrepresentation of the actual position,” she said. “The lack of lateral flow tests means many people not experiencing symptoms are unable to test that they are free from infection before mixing with other people.

“Those experiencing symptoms are unable to check they are likely to have been infected before applying for a PCR test to confirm.”

Cllr Harvey said ONS data, which models the prevalence of the virus in the population, is a better indicator of the actual number of people infected.

Latest figures from the ONS show the number of people infected in the West Midlands region is likely to be between 1 in 15 and 1 in 20 people.

“That’s a realistic infection level five times the rate currently being detected through active testing locally,” said Cllr Harvey.

“The risk is that the scale of infection within the population will mean that even with a reduced reaction to the latest Omicron variant, which is dominant nationwide, the numbers of people reacting seriously enough to need hospital treatment will overwhelm NHS services.

“Particularly here in Herefordshire, where we already have a much lower beds to heads ratio than the national average, and that’s before factoring in the area of Wales outside of the Wye Valley Trust catchment which looks to Hereford as its closest hospital facility.”

Cllr Harvey also praised NHS staff for their work in getting the county fully vaccinated.

“Volunteers at vaccination centres and GPs have been doing a fantastic job in providing access to first, second and booster vaccinations over the Christmas period and into the New Year,” she said.

The latest figures show more than two thirds of eligible people in Herefordshire have had two vaccine doses plus either a third or a booster. 

Cllr Harvey called this “an amazing achievement from a standing start in early December. And people in high risk groups are being proactively called by their doctors for fourth vaccinations, which are so important to ensure they have sufficient antibodies in their systems to combat infection if it occurs.”