HERE is the weekly column by Blackburn with Darwen public health boss Dominic Harrison

BLACKBURN with Darwen's rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 of the population went up to to 92 per 100,000 on one day last week.

We are currently at 75.9. We have the highest rate of confirmed cases in England. The England average is about 14.6.

Spain rose over the last weekend to 39.4 per 100,000 according to the European Centre for Communicable Disease Control – a rate similar to Sweden.

Our positivity rate (the percentage taking a test confirmed as a positive case) is around 2.5 per cent. This has come down from previous weeks where it rose to a peak of seven per cent. England’s rate is about one per cent.

We are however testing at five times the national rate, hitting 490 per 100,000 of the population last week- about five times the average England rate- which is just over 99 per 100,000. The interpretation of the key indicators for Covid-19 is complex and we continue to develop new insights now we have more data coming into the local authority.

One key piece of insight we have is that the number of new confirmed case of Covid-19 amongst people aged over 70 has dropped dramatically – which is good news as this group is most vulnerable to higher death rates if they have the virus. Age is still the biggest risk factor for Covid-19 deaths. The percentage of those aged from nought to19 continues to rise as does those aged 20 to 39.

These are groups are much less likely to be hospitalised if they get infected and are more likely to be asymptomatic. This trend is happening all over Europe with Spain announcing 50 per cent in its recent weeks confirmed cases were asymptomatic.

So this week I have asked for new mobile testing unit sites to be set up across the borough. I am also announcing an extension of testing advice.

I want to ask everyone in the borough to attend for testing – especially those who may not think they have symptoms. This applies particularly to anyone who has felt unwell or had any viral-type symptoms over the last two weeks. The USA Communicable Disease Centre has now identified 11 conditions that are associated with Covid-19. These are : fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches ; headache ;new loss of taste or smell ;sore throat ;congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; diarrhoea.

If you have any of these symptoms in the last two weeks and live in Blackburn with Darwen – please now come and get tested!

The more we test, the faster we identify cases and shut down community transmission.

The only thing that needs locking down is the virus and increasing testing is the best way to achieve it.