New Brighton looked like the new Benidorm on Monday, as Wirral baked in scorching temperatures on the day that coronavirus restrictions were lifted in England.

With some schools already finished for the summer holidays, hundreds flocked to the borough's beaches to take full advantage of weather conditions that saw the mercury reach as high as 28 degrees.

The stifling heat did not deter large groups of youngsters who chose to cool off not just in the Irish sea, but also the River Mersey, the marine lake and even the boating lake by Bubbles World of Play.

With a mix of people still wearing masks - but plenty not - the combination of summer sun and removal of restrictions brought a feel good vibe to the seaside resort.

New Brightons marine lake provided a cooling off spot for plenty of sun-seekers today

New Brighton's marine lake provided a cooling off spot for plenty of sun-seekers today

But pent up euphoria on the so-called 'freedom day' is being played out against a backdrop of rising coronavirus cases in the borough.

In the sevens days to July 12, Wirral had a Covid infection rate of 510.8 per 100,000 people, with an eye-watering 1,655 new cases.

That's up from a rate of 473.7 seven days earlier, when 1,535 people tested positive for the virus.

At most stages of the pandemic those statistics would be enough to put the borough - and the rest of England - back into a full lockdown, but the successful rollout of the vaccination programme has dictated an alternative narrative.

Many took advantage of the boiling hot weather by heading to the beach

Many took advantage of the boiling hot weather by heading to the beach

More than two-thirds of people in Wirral have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures reveal.

NHS data shows 182,650 people had received both jabs by July 11 – 69% of those aged 16 and over, based on latest population estimates for mid-2020 from the Office for National Statistics.

Of those to have received both jabs, 177,532 were aged 25 and over – 76% of the age group.

It means 5,118 people aged between 16 to 25 have received both doses.

Meanwhile, 224,584 people in Wirral have received at least one dose of a vaccine – 85% of those aged 16 and over.

That level of coverage and the effectiveness of the vaccine is illustrated by the number of people currently being treated for Covid in Wirral hospitals.

The most recent weekly report from NHS England shows the Wirral University Teaching Hospital was caring for 20 inpatients with coronavirus on July 13.

That number is actually down from 24 beds occupied by Covid patients at the trust seven days earlier.

Until last week, the number of patients with Covid had slowly risen at Arrowe Park Hospital, since May 27 when there were none.

The trust recorded a Covid-related death on Friday (July 16), taking the total number of patients who have died with coronavirus at Wirral University Teaching Hospital since the pandemic began to 625.

The Covid fatality was the first at Arrowe Park in 12 days and only the fourth since March 19.

A couple take in the view in New Brighton the day that Covid restrictions are lifted across England

A couple take in the view in New Brighton the day that Covid restrictions are lifted across England

On Friday, health bosses across Merseyside and Cheshire put out a joint message urging people to approach the fourth stage of the COVID-19 roadmap with caution.

Wirral’s Director of Public Health, Julie Webster, said: “We absolutely understand the feeling of our residents who want nothing more than to get back to normal, but it is our role as Directors of Public Health to be realistic about the future of this pandemic and do everything we can to protect the health of our population.

“The early evidence suggests that the hugely successful mass vaccination programme has weakened the link between infection of risk of hospitalisation and loss of life, which is incredibly encouraging, but that unfortunately is not the end of this story.

Wirral Globe: Hudreds in enjoyed fun in the sun at New BrightonHudreds in enjoyed fun in the sun at New Brighton

“It is clear that a massive rise in infections will impact our unvaccinated children and teenagers, those who have not been vaccinated, either due to personal choice or another medical reason, or those who have been vaccinated but fall within the lower percentage of people who are not protected.

“Another very real danger is the risk of yet another mutation of the virus that is both easier to catch and could render our current vaccines powerless, essentially taking us back to square one.”

Current public health advice

People living and working in Cheshire and Merseyside are advised to:

  • Get fully vaccinated – it’s shown to be safe and effective against the virus, including new variants and is the best way to keep yourself from getting seriously ill. It also reduces the risk of passing the virus on to someone else
  • Be kind and considerate of others who may be feeling extremely nervous about the further lifting of restrictions
  • Continue wearing face coverings in crowded indoor areas where social distancing cannot be followed, such as supermarkets and on public transport, in health and social care settings, such as hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries, and where it would make others feel more comfortable
  • Continue social distancing by not unnecessarily being in crowded areas and continuing to work from home if possible
  • Continue to practice good hand hygiene, in particular hand washing
  • Keep getting tested – everyone should undertake twice weekly rapid symptom free testing using Lateral Flow Tests (LFT). If people experience generally associated symptoms such as a headache, a stuffed or runny nose, tiredness or weakness, aches and pains, sore throat or diarrhoea, they should take an LFT and follow up with a PCR test if the LFT test is positive. If people have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change to their sense of smell or taste they must stay at home and book a PCR test. Around one in three people with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms, but can still infect others - so getting tested regularly will help slow the spread.
  • Self-isolate if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, especially if you work in a high-risk setting