BURY's health chief has warned that the borough is "not 'out of the woods' yet" in the fight against coronavirus.

Lesley Jones, director of public health at Bury Council, said Bury is at a "critical stage" in managing the pandemic, and urged everyone to follow the Government's Covid-19 guidelines "to protect ourselves and the people around us".

If people fail to adhere to the restrictions the borough and the UK risk facing a second outbreak, she added.

This, she said, "will lead to more deaths and the Government imposing a second lockdown, something none of us wants.”

The warning comes after new research, published on the online Deckzero Covid Tracker, suggested the borough’s R Number may now be one of the lowest in the UK.

The site looks at the fluctuation of Covid-19 cases over a period of time to estimate a figure for how the virus could be spreading in a particular local authority area.

But Ms Jones said she would urge people to treat the figures with "extreme caution".

She said: “Calculating the R rate is very complex, involving data from many sources.

"National experts at Public Health England and several academic units produce regional estimates for R.

"For smaller areas the number of cases is lower and this means that estimates are likely to be unreliable and possibly misleading.

“Cases of coronavirus infection in Bury, and deaths in all settings, are largely flatlining and, at best, showing only a marginal drop.

"This is consistent with regional estimates that suggest the R rate in the North West is close to one."

Although lockdown is being gradually lifted Bury Council has said it is "vital" that people continue to practice social distancing, wash their hands, obey rules about who and how many people they meet, and co-operate with the Test and Trace service to avoid coronavirus cases rising again.

Ms Jones said: “We are at a critical stage in managing the pandemic.

"While everyone is keen to unlock, we are also mindful of how likely we are close to an ‘R’ rate of one, and the danger of a fresh surge in the virus.

"Reports of large gatherings in public spaces and a sentiment of ‘lockdown is over’ are concerning.

“The dangers are all too real. We must not forget that 136 Bury residents have died of the virus so far, most of them leaving behind many more grieving relatives and loved ones.

“A critical part of keeping the ‘R’ rate below one depends on people’s behaviour – remaining at home within household groups as much as possible, maintaining social distancing when out, wearing face coverings in closed spaces and maintaining regular hand washing."