The number of COVID-19 patients in Hertfordshire hospital beds fell by almost 28 per cent in three weeks, new figures show – but demand on critical care went up instead of down.

Continuing pressure on adult critical care is believed to be due to the amount of time severely ill Covid-19 patients have to stay in hospital.

Confirmed infections in the county have fallen, week-on-week, every day since January 6.

On January 6, there were 9,308 known cases – or 782.5 per 100,000 residents.

By February 2 – the most recent day of confirmed data – there were 2,867 cases – or 241 per 100,000. That represented a 69 per cent fall.

But trends in hospital cases take time to follow infections, because the virus takes weeks to incubate and become severe enough to require hospital intervention.

At the time new infections started falling in Herts, hospital bed occupancy was still increasing.

On January 6, there were 562 hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients across four trusts: West Herts; East and North Herts, Herts Community and Herts Partnership.

By mid-January – despite a period of consistent reductions in new infections – the numbers in hospital rose to more than 600.

On January 12, the total was 604 – but it has fallen every week since then.

On January 19, it dropped to 590. On January 26, it fell to 550. By February 2, it was 438.

That meant hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients fell by 27.5 per cent in three weeks.

But data shows that the most severe cases are not falling at the same rate.

On January 12, 46 coronavirus patients were on mechanical ventilation. On January 19, it had risen to 48.

By February 2, it had fallen to 40 – a 16.7 per cent decrease.

Meanwhile, the number of hospital patients in critical care beds has continued to rise.

On January 6, there were 43 patients in critical care. By January 19, it was 59. The latest figure, for January 31, was 64.

Director of public health Jim McManus said in a briefing last month that whilst new treatments had lowered the mortality rate, this meant more people required hospitalisation for longer.

He said: “More people are needing longer periods of rehab... The virus is knocking them for six and they need some time in.”