“COVID-19 will not be taking a break over Christmas”.

That’s the warning from Dorset health officials with residents advised to start to reduce any “unnecessary social contact” with others now to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.

Despite a continuing decline in the number of cases, Public Health Dorset is urging people to “consider the risks” ahead of the festivities.

Public Health Dorset said: “As we approach the festive period, some people will be looking forward to forming a Christmas bubble. It is important to remember that COVID-19 will not be taking a break over Christmas.

“You don't have to form a Christmas bubble, but if you are planning to do so you should consider the risks to everyone involved carefully. You should also start to reduce any unnecessary social contact with others now to minimise the risk of transmission.”

The health authority said the county has continued to see a decline in both case numbers and seven-day case rates for both Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Dorset Council areas.

Swanage and Wareham Voice:

However, it added this appeared to have “levelled out” in recent days.

There has also been a reduction in the number of Covid patients in hospital beds across the county.

Latest figures published on Friday, show 249 cases were confirmed in the BCP area between November 29 and December 5, compared to 339 the previous week.

In Dorset, 150 cases were recorded during the same period, down from 167 the previous seven days.

The rate per 100,000 people for the BCP area is now 63.0 and in Dorset it is 39.6. These were 85.8 and 44.1 respectively the previous week.

And in the county’s hospitals, the number of Covid patients is 88 compared to 127 last week.

The whole of Dorset is currently under Tier 2 restrictions which were introduced when the national lockdown ended on December 2.

The first review of the tier system is due to take place on December 16.

Earlier this month, Public Health Dorset issued an open letter calling on residents to follow the rules to be in with a strong chance of being moved into Tier 1.

Under the Tier 2 rules, households are unable to mix indoors and the rule of six applies outdoors.