HEALTH bosses have blamed the steep increase in Covid-19 cases in Inverclyde over the festive period on the mixing of people in local hospitality venues.

The area saw an astronomical increase in positive coronavirus cases at the end of 2020, with Public Health Scotland figures revealing there were 581 cases per 100,000 people reported in the seven days from December 28.

Health board officials say they have been unable to identify specific hospitality or retail settings driving the spike.

But they confirmed that the 'increase in population-mixing combined with the new more transmissible variant favoured increased community transmission'.

The details were disclosed to the Telegraph after we lodged a series of questions under Freedom of Information laws.

In their response the board stated: 'The increase in Covid-19 incidence in Inverclyde over the festive period was most likely associated with increased mixing in hospitality setting, after the move from Level 3 to Level 2 in the run-up to Christmas, as well as increased household mixing over the Christmas period'.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde say that over the festive period, clusters of Covid-19 cases associated with attendance at hospitality settings 'overlapped' with clusters of cases associated with retail settings.

Health bosses launched a test and trace operation in late-December relating to Greenock nightclub, Word Up, after coronavirus cases were linked to the establishment, which had been operating as a bar and beer garden serving pizza.

Inverclyde's two biggest supermarkets were also hit by outbreaks of Covid-19 in December, with a 'significant number' of staff at Tesco stores in Greenock and Port Glasgow self-isolating.

Two staff members tragically passed away after contracting the virus.

NHS GGC say that four of the 'overlapping clusters' accounted for 'approximately eight per cent of cases notified to the GGC Test & Protect Team for Inverclyde between 21 December and 3 January'.

Officials added: 'Further smaller clusters were subsequently identified across Inverclyde across a range of settings, including workplaces and households'.

Health chiefs say the number of Inverclyde residents seeking Covid-19 tests more than doubled between the pre-Christmas period and the end of 2020 into 2021 and that this helped get the outbreak under control.

Their response to our FOI questions said: 'Uptake of UK Government testing in Inverclyde more than doubled at the end of December and beginning of January, compared to the pre-Christmas period, which contributed to the high incidence observed in Inverclyde, and facilitated effective isolation of cases and their contacts and interruption of transmission.'