The disruption to sexually transmitted infection testing services caused by the Covid pandemic saw the number of diagnoses fall by 32 per cent between 2019 and 2020, according to data from Public Health England.
There was a drop in diagnoses across a range of STIs, which PHE puts down to changes in people's behaviour during lockdown combined with the impact of Covid on sexual health services.
However, although diagnosis of STIs fell, PHE warned that overall transmission rates remained high. Chlamydia diagnoses fell by 29 per cent but there was still 161,672 cases last year. Gonorrhoea cases fell by 20 per cent to 57,084 while herpes cases fell by 40 per cent to 20,530.
Despite the 32 per cent drop in new STI diagnoses overall, there was still a total of 317,901 cases last year. The highest rates of STI diagnoses were in 15 to 24-year-olds, people of black ethnicity, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men.
Consultations at sexual health services fell by 10 per cent between 2019 and last year and face-to-face consultations dropped by 35 per cent although virtual consultations doubled.
There was a 25 per cent fall in sexual health screening for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis or HIV while face-to-face assessments for warts and herpes dropped by 46 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.