Suffolk has begun to see more than 1,000 new positive Covid cases in a day as public health leaders reveal fewer positive test results are being reported.

Data released by the government revealed there were 8,234 cases for the week up to March 16 – an increase from 4,894 the week before.

Hospitals have started to see a steady rise in the number of Covid patients in the last few weeks.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, was caring for 67 patients on March 10 – but this number rose to 101 just four days later.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds had 24 patients on March 3, but this figure had doubled by March 15.

However, these figures are dwarfed by the number between ESNEFT and West Suffolk Hospital on January 18 last year — when the two trusts were caring for more than 700 Covid patients between them.

The rise in cases and hospital admissions is not reflected in the number of Covid deaths in Suffolk.

In the week leading up to March 17, there were six deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test in the county.

These numbers are much lower than in January of this year, when there were as many as seven deaths reported on any given day.

The rise in cases comes as Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, revealed fewer people were reporting positive results on lateral flow tests.

The government will stop providing free home testing kits from April 1, but vulnerable people and those who work in health and social care settings will still be able to access them without charge.

Mr Keeble said: "Whilst we have seen a reduction in the number of tests being reported, as we move towards a new phase of ‘living with Covid’ we are seeing people in Suffolk continuing to be sensible about when they take a test.

"Taking a test if you have symptoms or before visiting a vulnerable person gives you a good indicator of whether or not you may be infectious to others.

"Although we are no longer required to legally self-isolate if we have Covid, we do still strongly recommend to, as this will prevent more people from becoming ill."

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT, said: "We are seeing an increase in the number of people with COVID-19 being admitted to our hospitals as infection rates go up in the community.

“We have robust plans and infection prevention and control measures in place across all our hospitals and services so we can provide safe and effective care for all our patients, with and without the virus, who may need treatment either in our hospitals or the community."

Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, added: "With levels of Covid-19 infections still very high in the local area, we are seeing more people in our hospitals and community settings with the virus.

"As with previous waves of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, we are working very hard to look after everyone who needs our services and have tried and tested plans in place."