As the prime minister prepares to outline a roadmap to ease the lockdown on Sunday, Sky News analysis has revealed the COVID-19 hotspots that could bring pressure to delay any changes.
This local data shows clear differences in the prevalence of the virus within the UK’s nations and regions; and for the first time the Department of Health has released the rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 population in the hyper-local district council areas.
This identifies the communities where rates of infection are highest and where easing restrictions could have a more severe impact.
For some time, it has been known that Kent (3,968 confirmed cases), Lancashire (3,055) and Birmingham (3,011) lead the league table of confirmed cases.
But the inclusion of both the new incidence rate and data for much smaller local authorities allows us to see a rather different picture for how the epidemic is being experienced in England.
The government’s data suggests the highest incidence of COVID-19 is in Barrow-in-Furness, which has reported 540 cases.
Its relatively small population means this number translates into a rate of 804 cases of the virus per 100,000 population.
Second on the list, but a long way behind, is Lancaster (513 cases/100,000 population), while in third place is another council in the county of Cumbria, South Lakeland, which has 482 cases/100,000.
Another Cumbrian council, Carlisle, is in 10th place (397 cases/100,000), while Copeland is not too far behind (374).
Data published by the Office for National Statistics and the Care Quality Commission identified Cumbria as a location with several outbreaks in care homes.
More than 100 residents are suspected to have died with COVID-19 in the county, which has almost 3,500 people living in residential care.
Barrow is thought to be one of the worst affected areas, along with South Lakeland, and care homes owners have said the infection is “running wild”.
There is further evidence of geographic clustering of confirmed cases in England – with Sunderland (a rate of 457/100,000), Gateshead (453) and South Tyneside (421) among the authorities worst affected.
Interestingly, the two remaining boroughs in the former Tyne & Wear metropolitan county, Newcastle upon Tyne and North Tyneside, fare much better than their neighbours.
Another urban authority in the North East with a high rate is Middlesbrough (427 cases/100,000).
Although London fared particularly badly at the outset of the epidemic, its boroughs do not dominate the league table of incidence after accounting for population.
The worst authority is Brent (421/100,000) followed by Southwark and Harrow (each on 386) and Lambeth (356).
Mostly rural authorities dominate the other extreme, particularly in the South West.
Although it has a relatively large number of cases, 531, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly has a rate of just 94 cases per 100,000 population.
Despite its relatively large population, Plymouth has an incidence of just 120 cases/100,000, only marginally higher than the Isle of Wight (105).
There is also an interesting cluster of low incidence around East/West Sussex with Arun (91 cases/100,000), Rother (87) and, most surprising of all Hastings (48), all reporting very few cases of COVID-19.
Scotland’s reporting is based on 14 health boards, so is at a slightly less local level. However, it is still possible to compare the relative incidence of COVID 19 in different parts of the nation.
The Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board dominates. When the lockdown began, this one area accounted for 31% of confirmed cases in Scotland. Since then, its share of Scotland’s cases has fallen to 25%.
Lothian, based around Edinburgh, has moved in the opposite direction. When lockdown started it reported one in eight of all confirmed cases. But its share of Scotland’s total has been steadily rising and it now accounts for 17% of the nation’s cases.
Other areas have been comparatively stable – Lanarkshire consistent with 12% of cases and Tayside moving from 9% to 11%.
Rural parts of the mainland, as well as the Islands, have reported relatively few cases of COVID-19.
Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles combined account for less than half of one percent of all Scotland’s cases.
The Borders, Dumfries and the Highland Boards together account for less than 7% of the total.
In Wales, three local authorities each have more than 1,000 confirmed cases: Cardiff (1,789 cases), Rhondda Cynon Taf (1,195) and Swansea (1,129).
However, once we take account of the different population sizes, it is Rhondda Cynon Taf which heads the list with 498 cases per 100,000 people compared with Cardiff’s rate of 491.
Despite having a relatively large number of cases, Swansea (458 cases per 100,000) is ranked fifth behind Newport (480) and Merthyr Tydfil (479).
As is the case in Scotland, rural areas in Wales are relatively unscathed by the virus.
Ceredigion has just 37 confirmed cases in total, giving it a ratio of just 51 cases per 100,000 population.
Next is the Isle of Anglesey, which might be considered another ideal place to begin a test, track and trace scheme, since it has only 97 cases – an incidence of 139 cases per 100,000.
Powys, which borders the English counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire, has an incidence of 148 which is comparable to its English neighbours – Herefordshire (174) and Shropshire (178).
What does this mean for lockdown?
The clear difference in the prevalence of the virus in certain parts of the country suggests there could soon be people in some areas straining at the seams to get out and about again, while others, including the leaders of the devolved institutions, might well be more reticent.
The official government line is “all parts of the UK move together” but this data raises questions about how sustainable that will be.
The analysis in this piece is based on data up to 7 May, but visualisations are live and allow you to track the latest numbers.