Don’t panic is the message from Cumbria’s director of public health as new figures revealing the number of local deaths from Covid-19 have been revealed.

The Office for National Statistics has launched an interactive map which shows a very localised picture of the number of deaths recorded between March 1 and May 31, where Covid-19 was the underlying cause or a contributory factor.

In Allerdale there were 62 deaths recorded during that time and 55 in Copeland, with 17 of those in Cleator Moor, Frizington and Ennerdale, one of the highest statistics in the county.

But Colin Cox wants to reassure the public that this data does not indicate hot spots in particular areas.

And he added that, as lockdown eases, observing social distancing is “as important as ever” to prevent new cases of Covid-19.

Mr Cox does not want people to read too much into these figures as they can be “very significantly skewed” by a single care home in the area or how densely populated it is.

“We know that Covid-19 kills older people at a much higher rate than anybody else, so in older areas you would expect to have a higher number of deaths. This is just a raw number of deaths and isn’t age-standardised or even in proportion of the populations,” he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a hot spot for community-related infections so if things are related to outbreaks in care homes, that doesn’t mean the rest of the population around it have been at any more risk.

“At this stage, it’s just a recording of what’s happened. The deaths aren’t a very useful tool for controlling the virus because they take several weeks to happen after the virus has been contracted. If you’re relying on deaths you’re too late.”

His key message is for the public to remain vigilant.

“The virus is still out there. It is still circulating and it could come back,” he continued. “If we want to avoid any local lockdowns or going back into lockdown and getting a second wave, we do need to identify symptoms, trace contacts of people who have got symptoms and self-isolate and observe social distancing at all times.

“Having a good contact tracing system at this stage is essential to coming out of lockdown safely.”

Last month officials confirmed Covid-19 had probably claimed the lives of 145 care home residents across the county.

Copeland and Cleator Moor councillor Joan Hully agreed that the figures aren’t black and white. She said a lack of employment in the area has left it with a high population of elderly residents and there is also a care home in Cleator Moor.

She said it’s important to remember that behind these statistics are people who have lost their lives and grieving families.

“Any death is a tragedy for any family at any time but this has exacerbated it,” said Ms Hully. “With funeral arrangements and the way things are, it’s cruel that families and friends can’t say goodbye.

“I feel so grateful to the carers and the funeral directors and anybody involved in anybody like that, they are doing a fantastic job. And we need to support them.

“We should remember. They are not just statistics, they are human beings with a soul. A human life is a human life.”

She added that staff in care homes are doing their best to keep people safe. “We also mustn’t just point out the care home, that might be coincidence,” she said.