Teenagers who caught Covid-19 at house parties have spread the disease to adult members of their family, the county council has said.

Hertfordshire County Council and Public Health England are currently dealing with a significant outbreak of Covid-19 in Hertsmere - and have warned schools could close if residents and the council don't "get a grip" on this outbreak.

There are already a number of pupils at schools across the borough self-isolating.

Government data published today shows the weekly rate of cases in the borough is just outside the top 10 in England and higher than anywhere else in southern England - and now residents are being urged to "pay close attention".

Last week, the executive member for public health in Hertfordshire said an initial spike in cases was caused by a number of large gatherings which took place inside homes in the Borehamwood area.

Today, the county council threatened to fine parents who are allowing house parties up to £10,000, warning these types of events "will not be tolerated".

What is the situation like at the moment and where are most of the cases?

A further six cases were announced in Hertsmere on the daily government dashboard today, which is down from the weekend where a total of 20 new cases were confirmed.

Five of these six cases were found on Saturday.

Since August 29, there have been at least 65 cases reported in Hertsmere, which are figures the borough has not seen since the peak of the pandemic.

The rate of cases in the seven days to September 4 is 57.6 – the 11th highest in England out of more than 300 local authorities.

Although many of those testing positive have been teenagers – in particular aged 16 and 17 – the county council says data is “now showing some spread into adult family members”.

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Credit: PA

Health officials say contact tracing data it has tells them cases and contacts socialised in Borehamwood and that transmission occurred within the wider local community.

But the hotspot of new cases is not actually in Borehamwood – government data shows 19 people who live in Bushey Heath tested positive for Covid-19 between August 28 and September 3.

Radlett, Elstree, Aldenham, Cowley Hill and Hillside in Borehamwood, Bushey North, and Furzefield in Potters Bar are all areas which have seen at least three cases during this recent outbreak.

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Areas in blue are where at least three cases have been found

Are we heading for a ‘local lockdown’?

Restrictions for people living in Hertsmere were not ruled out by the county council today.

The rate in Hertsmere is higher than some places in northern England where restrictions do exist – for example there are bans in Greater Manchester on people meeting in each other’s homes.

When the county council was asked if Hertsmere was going to see any lockdown restrictions imposed, a spokesperson said: “We want to avoid any further restrictive measures but ultimately it is down to every person taking the key actions we have asked them to do – not socialising in groups especially.”

However, a senior councillor has warned schools could close.

Councillor Tim Hutchings said: "We now need all residents in Hertsmere to pay really close attention to this serious issue of the spread of COVID-19, as well as working with community leaders, to remind them of the importance of following the government’s guidance to minimise the risks of the spread of COVID-19.

"If we do not get a grip on this local outbreak, then the risk is that schools may need to close."

Yavneh College in Borehamwood and Hertsmere Jewish Primary School near Radlett are at least two schools where pupils are currently self-isolating - including at least one class at Hertsmere JPS.

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The county council says “it doesn’t know” if Hertsmere is going to be listed as an area of concern by Public Health England – adding it is a “rapidly changing situation”.

The council says it will take action where necessary regardless of whether Hertsmere is listed or not.

What are the public being asked to do?

The leader of Hertsmere Borough Council urged the Hertsmere community to “work together” to stop the spread.

Councillor Morris Bright said: “We have to continue to act to prevent this current increase in the number of cases in the borough from spiralling further upwards.

“We do not want more deaths and untold woe for sufferers and their families.”

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Cllr Bright outside Elstree Studios

The public are being urged to wear a face covering, keep their distance, wash hands frequently, and avoid large social meet-ups.

The county council says the virus is “spread easily” in social gatherings where people mix and indicated it only takes one infected person to infect multiple people.

Anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 is also told to get a test and anyone who has tested positive must self-isolate, along with members of their household.

The county council says it is awaiting the latest testing figures for the borough.

We are also waiting to hear back about whether more local testing facilities will be introduced in Hertsmere.

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Credit: PA

No deaths have been reported linked to this outbreak yet and hospital admissions remain “stable”, the council said.

However, a spokesperson said it can take up to two weeks for an infected person to be hospitalised.

In April, Hertsmere had the highest Covid-19 death rate in England, with a total of 181 deaths reported so far.

Many of these deaths were care home residents with cases reported in at least 15 of the borough’s 17 care homes.

What have the council officially said today?

Councillor Tim Hutchings, executive member for public health in Hertfordshire, said: “We can confirm there are a significant number of positive Covid-19 cases in Hertsmere – with a specific rise of cases in Borehamwood.

“Existing self-isolation and social distancing measures have not been effectively implemented to contain this local outbreak among the original group of young people (16 to 19-year-olds) in a number of large social gatherings in private homes in the last week of August.

“In these cases, transmission did not occur in a school setting but through a number of friendship groups within the wider local Hertsmere community and in north west London."

Cllr Hutchings added: “We have written again today to parents and carers of children at schools where fellow pupils are now playing their part by self-isolating, with a stern warning: stop these house parties and private events or face enforcement action of up to a £10,000 fine.”