Dozens of staff in Hertfordshire care homes have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past two weeks – sparking concerns that the second wave of the virus may have spread there.

The latest data – compiled by the county council – provides a snapshot of the virus in care homes, based on positive tests in the two weeks to October 2.

It shows that at least 72 members of staff – and 54 residents – have been diagnosed with Covid-19, many of whom may not have had symptoms.

And that has prompted some fears that the pandemic is circulating in the county’s care homes.

According to the data, within the 14-day period to October 2 there were 25 staff members and 23 residents in care homes that tested positive in Hertsmere, where there are a total of 1,286 care home places.

In Broxbourne – where there are just 378 care home beds – the data shows nine staff members and 18 residents tested positive for Covid-19.

In St Albans – where there are 1,107 care home beds – there were nine staff who tested positive for the virus and three residents.

And in Welwyn Hatfield – where there are 1,113 care home beds – there were also nine staff members testing positive, as well as two residents.

The remaining 20 members of staff and eight residents are spread around care homes in the remaining six district and boroughs.

There were three members off staff testing positive Dacorum, five in East Herts, five in North Herts, two in Stevenage, three in Three Rivers and two in Watford.

However Cllr Richard Roberts, executive member for adult care and health at the county council, stresses that the majority of these cases are centred on "significant outbreaks" in just two care homes – in Broxbourne and in Hertsmere.

Office for National Statistics data published on Tuesday shows two care home residents in Hertsmere who tested positive for Covid-19 died in the week ending September 25.

He acknowledges that the number of cases in care homes has increased – after being very low over the summer months.

But he says measures such as routine testing, hand-washing, PPE, and infection control are keeping infection rates low.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Zukowskyj has pushed for publication of the latest testing data from care homes, which was initially intended to be ‘confidential’.

And he says it’s vital residents know so they can make decisions about whether to move-in to – or remain – in a care home setting.

During the first wave of the pandemic – between March and August – the virus is believed to have claimed the lives of more than 500 Hertfordshire care home residents, either at home or in hospital.

And much of the spread around care homes was attributed to care home staff – who had the virus, but no symptoms – who unwittingly passed it to other staff and residents.

Since July all staff working in care homes should have been screened for the virus once a week – with residents also screened once a month – in a bid to halt the spread of asymptomatic transmission.

Delays in the testing process have already been highlighted by Cllr Roberts – who said some staff in September were waiting up to seven days to get their results.

And – in light of the latest data – Cllr Zukowskyj says the testing process needs to be speeded up to prevent the spread.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for adult care Cllr Ron Tindall – who is also a member of Dacorum Borough Council – says the level of infection is “deeply concerning”.

He said: “Care home residents are our most vulnerable group, exactly the group who need to be protected most.

“I know county officers and care home staff are doing everything they can to control the virus and protect our elderly loved ones, but the haphazard testing, poor test turnaround time and stupendously incompetent data management of this government is massively undermining those efforts.

“Our loved ones face a new wave and yet again the lack of timely and appropriate testing is making a bad situation intolerably worse.”