‘CONCERNING’ new figures suggest that a Cumbrian area has the highest infection rate for coronavirus in England.

New data released showed Barrow has been hit worse than more than 300 other areas in the country for cases of the virus.

And Carlisle and Copeland also feature highly on the table.

Barrow ranks just ahead of Lancaster and South Lakeland for positive tests for Covid-19 per 100,000 people, according to figures released by Public Health England.

In total, 540 people in the borough have tested positive for coronavirus, a rate of 804.3 per 100,000 - more than 50 per cent higher than anywhere else in the country.

Another Cumbrian council, Carlisle, is in 10th place (397 cases/100,000), while Copeland is not too far behind (374).

In light of the revelations, community leaders have reiterated the message to stay at home to ease the spread of infection.

Councillor Iain Mooney, Barrow Council’s health spokesman, said: “The figures are very concerning and leave more questions than answers.

“The fact that these numbers come from postcode data rather than the surrounding area is also alarming.

“It directly suggests that we have the highest infection rate just in Barrow.

“Our testing facilities for health care workers in the NHS have been excellent here and have gained national acclaim.

“Sadly, other areas and industries in our town are still lacking.

“We still see testing below the Government aim and struggles with providing adequate PPE.

“Now is not the time for guessing, we urgently need an investigation into these findings and questions need to be asked.

“I urge everyone to still follow guidelines and stay safe.”

However, one senior doctor said it was too early to draw conclusions from the data.

Barrow GP Geoff Jolliffe, clinical chair of the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, stressed it was too soon to read into the figures.

Dr Jolliffe said: “Barrow is at the top now but I would expect that to change.

“It may be that we have hit the peak earlier than other places.

“It’s early days and I couldn’t say why Barrow is highest at the moment.

"We won't know the true picture until months down the line.”

“But the real message is there’s a lot of the virus about in Barrow, so do not relax on the rules.

“Just follow the advice, it’s people cheating who are going to spread the virus.”

Despite the high infection rate, the county has not seen the 'worst case scenario' which health chiefs have planned for.

For instance, the Covid-19 recovery centre built by the army at Furness Academy is yet to see its first patient.

Dr Jolliffe said the centre was built because of Barrow’s distance from major cities.

“The centre was designed for the worst case scenario.

“Health services locally are coping well,” he said.

Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell also urged caution.

“Clearly this is a worrying trend,” he said,

“But the crucial thing is to not to jump to conclusions.

“It’s simply too early to really understand what this data means.

“We are ahead of the national curve as we had early cases here.

“We’ve also been testing more so will have picked up more cases compared to other areas.

“We also have high population density and an ageing population.

“All these are factors but we’re comparing apples with oranges at the moment.

“The key thing is that our local NHS is coping and doing a great job.

“And beyond that, it shows why we have to stick to the rules this bank holiday to keep that infection rate down, protect the NHS and save lives.”

“The local response to the crisis has been well-planned and is working.”