Coronavirus cases in Halton appear to have stabilised, but the local hospitals are still under severe strain.

The latest data suggests the borough’s Covid-19 infection rate has fallen from around 400 cases per 100,000 residents to around 330 cases per 100,000 residents.

However, it is not clear whether this represents a genuine decrease in infections as the percentage of swabs testing positive has continued to increase across the North West.

It is therefore possible that many cases are being missed by a lack of testing, but the reality will not become clear until a later date.

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Meanwhile, the past week saw Warrington and Halton Hospitals almost reach the same number of covid-positive inpatients as they saw during the peak of the first wave in April.

On Thursday, the hospital had 116 Covid-19 patients on its wards, just shy of the 124 it saw during April’s peak.

By Friday, those numbers had decreased slightly, but the hospital had also recorded six deaths overnight - something it had not seen since April - and its ICU remains almost at capacity.

Prof Simon Constable, the trust’s chief executive, said: “It is possible that our figures have stabilised but it is too early to tell; we are still very close to the April peak of wave one but in a very different operational climate to back then.

“For instance, emergency attendances are about normal for this time of year - they were significantly reduced in the Spring.”

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The other hospital that serves the borough, Whiston, is also still under strain, although precise figures have been hard to obtain.

The main policy change over the week was the decision to bring the Liverpool City Region’s rules into line with other areas in Tier 3 lockdowns.

Halton’s MP Derek Twigg had repeatedly called for gyms to be allowed to open in the region, as they were able to stay open in other Tier 3 areas like Lancashire.

On Tuesday, he managed to secure a promise from health secretary Matt Hancock to look at the restrictions again and, on Wednesday, it was announced that gyms would be allowed to open.