Blackburn with Darwen is the worst Covid hotspot in the country (Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

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The North West has become the centre of the latest Covid surge in the UK, with a map revealing the top five hotspots in the region.

The map, developed by Public Health England, shows coronavirus infection rates across the country, with the worst-affected areas coloured dark blue and purple.

Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire has the highest rate in the country, with 897 new cases up to June 10.

This equates to 599.2 cases per 100,000 people – up from 548.4 the week before.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Ribble Valley comes second with 279 new infections and a case rate of 458.2.

The North West has become the centre of the latest Covid surge

It is more than double the previous week when there were 221.7 new cases per 100,000 people.

Hyndburn, also in Lancashire, is the third worst hotspot with 333 new cases, meaning it has an infection rate of 410.9 – up from 264.1.

Rossendale claims fourth place with 267 new cases, equating to 375.5 per 100,000 people, while Burnley comes fifth with 326 fresh infections, meaning it has a case rate of 366.6.

Blackburn with Darwen is battling the highest infection rate in the country

Speaking at yesterday's Downing Street press conference Professor Chris Whitty revealed a "rapid rise" in hospitalisation rates in the North West.

Despite this, England's Chief Medical Office said these numbers are "still relatively modest compared to the capacity of the NHS".

However he warned: "But several doubling times, a relatively small number of doubling times and you start getting to really quite large numbers."

The case rate doubled in Ribble Valley in a week

Prof Whitty said Covid-19 cases were increasing across the country, adding the link between people being admitted to hospital had been "substantially weakened" but "it has not been completely stopped".

He said the rates of people being admitted to hospital were following a rise in cases but with a delay.

A further 7,673 new Covid cases were announced today – up by 26% on last Tuesday.

Hyndburn recorded 333 new cases, resulting in an infection rate of 410.9

The Indian variant, which is more transmissible than the Alpha strain, is behind the latest surge in Covid infections.

A previous study by Public Health England (PHE) found that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is 88% effective against the variant first identified in India (the Delta variant) after two doses, compared with 93% efficacy against the variant first identified in Kent (the Alpha variant).

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective, compared with 66% against the Alpha variant over the same period.

Rossendale is the fourth worst hotspot

Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant three weeks after the first dose, compared with about 50% against the Alpha variant.

PHE also found that unvaccinated people have twice the risk of hospital admission with the Delta variant as the Alpha variant.

Boris Johnson yesterday told a Downing Street briefing that delaying the end of lockdown could give the NHS "a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them".

Burnley had 326 new cases in a week

He said: "By Monday July 19, we will aim to have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable, all frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May.

"To do this we will now accelerate the second jabs for those over 40, just as we did for the vulnerable groups, so they get the maximum protection as fast as possible.

"And we will bring forward our target to give every adult in the country a first dose by July 19, that is including young people over the age of 18, with 23 and 24-year-olds invited to book jabs from tomorrow so we reduce transmission among groups that mix the most and to give the NHS that extra time."