The number of intensive care patients in Hertfordshire hospitals fell by more than a third in the first week of February.

NHS data shows Herts saw its biggest falls in critical care occupancy and COVID-19 hospital cases this year.

The figures reveal the number of coronavirus-related deaths almost halved in the week up to February 9 too, with 92 compared to 172 the week before. However, that figure may increase due to delayed registrations.

But Tim Hutchings, the county’s lead councillor for public health, warned residents not to “get carried away”.

He said: “Obviously, I’m delighted to see the numbers coming down at the rate that they are, but only two months ago we would have been horrified with the numbers we currently have."

On Sunday, January 31, 64 adult critical care beds were filled.

A week later, on February 7, it was 40 – a 37.5 per cent reduction.

The number of patients requiring intensive care steadily rose from 25 in the last week of November to 38 in the last week of December, then continued rising throughout January.

COVID-19 takes time to incubate and cause symptoms, more time to become severe enough for hospital admission, and even more to get so bad that intensive care is required.

So whilst new infections began falling just after Christmas, hospitalisations were still increasing, as those developing severe symptoms had been infected weeks earlier.

In late January, the trend in hospital admissions began to follow infections – but the number of patients requiring intensive care continued rising. Now they have finally started to decline as well.

The latest data, up to February 9, shows hospital cases dropping every week since January 12, when there were 604.

By February 2 it was down to 438 and a week later it was down to 370.

The county’s infection rate has also continued to fall. On February 9, there were 1,793 confirmed cases, giving an infection rate of 150.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

In early January, there had been over 10,000 confirmed cases, and 910 infections per 100,000 people.

Cllr Hutchings said: “It's still important to follow the rules because the numbers are still high.”