SOUTHEND has had the biggest spike in confirmed Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, a data research firm claims.

The data analysis company DeckZero looked at daily lab test results and claimed that Southend had 24 confirmed cases on May 25 – up from the peak in April when there were 19 recorded cases.

The company claims this means Southend’s R-number, which indicates how quickly a virus is spreading in a certain area, is now above 1.6, which means the number of cases is increasing exponentially.

It is not possible to trace what may have prompted the increase but one significant factor could be that testing was made available just one week earlier and testing centres operate just two days a week, with results taking 48 hours to be obtained.

The councillor responsible for health in borough, revor Harp, dismissed the research claiming it is inaccurate and goes against official data from Public Health England.

A council briefing sent to councillors over the weekend explains the R-number is currently 0.6 for the East of England as of May 30, with potential for that to vary between 0.5 and 0.8.

Mr Harp said: “The director of public health and I are guided by the official figures given by Public Health England. If we question our own figures, how would we be able to make decisions?

“We only make them using official data. It is as simple as that.”

Unlike DeckZero, Public Health only assesses the Rnumber for regions rather than specific boroughs because it explains “accuracy of an R number requires a sufficient number of positive tests in a population, and the R number loses precision when applied to small populations”.

Additionally, DeckZero bases their data on daily lab tests, despite Southend’s lab located at the airport testing people outside of the borough.

Last month public health officials were forced to revise data on the number of people in Southend to have died from coronavirus after a similar way of recording data meant that more than 100 deaths were incorrectly recorded as being people from the borough.

Mr Harp reiterated that people should not be panicked by the claims and residents should “only look to official figures”.

DeckZero said the figures they produce may only provide a “glimpse” of how the R-number has changed over the past 14 days and it is “not trying to replicate the scientific R-number”. The firm adds that the data should “not be used in any scenario or situation where the government guidance should be followed, including but not limited to policy making.