Birmingham could be hit with tough new Covid-19 controls after cases rocket

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There are growing signs tough new Covid-19 lockdown measures could be imposed across Birmingham by the end of the week after infections rocketed.

The infection rate in Birmingham now stands at 62.4 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to September 5, compared to 28.1 the week before, according to latest NHS data.

Only two weeks ago, the city narrowly avoided a restrictive local lockdown such as those imposed in Leicester and Greater Manchester, after an increase in positive test results.

However West Midlands mayor Andy Street said in light of the “very notable increase” in positive tests in both Birmingham and neighbouring Solihull, further restrictions were now “very, very likely”.

Stressing no final decisions had yet been made, he added the “simplest form of restriction would be city-wide”.

Public health and city chiefs have grown increasingly worried in recent days by the rise with Birmingham’s public health director Dr Justin Varney telling the BBC he was concerned by the “significant” uplift in numbers.

Birmingham City Council, which has opened more test sites across the city in recent days, believes part of the reason is down to increasing testing numbers.

However, the jump in the rate also coincided with the bank holiday weekend and the city recording its largest single outbreak of the pandemic.

Knife crime
Mayor of West Midlands Andy Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He said the increases “look to be as a result of socialising and household contact”, with cases “very much concentrated in the younger age groups, so the under-40s”.

Mr Street added: “The critical message is everybody has a responsibility to follow the guidance.

“If they do not follow the guidance, we will of course be subject to very stringent restrictions preventing people enjoying the things they’ve been looking forward to.

“Secondly, we will see this (virus) move into more vulnerable groups.”

He added: “Thus far it (the virus) has concentrated in the younger age groups, that’s why we’re not seeing that much increase in hospitalisations and, God forbid, deaths.

“But if we don’t stop this it will translate into these older age groups and we will have a very serious situation on our hands.”

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 8, 2020
Dr David Rosser, of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, said medics were deeply concerned (Jacob King/PA)

“But it is very clear that is not happening, sufficiently well.”

He added the problem was not just with pubs, bars and restaurants but also people socialising in other people’s homes, saying “private settings are an important part of this”.

“The younger population have got to take responsibility, think about their parents and grandparents.”

The latest increase has meant there were 712 infections recorded in Birmingham in the latest seven-day period, the highest in the city since the peak in April.

Of concern to health bosses will also be the fact the trend is increasing, rather than slowing.

The city had already been added to the national Public Health England (PHE) watchlist, which categorises local authority areas of concern by infection rate.

Following that move, the council rapidly introduced tougher measures, agreed with the Government, including a legally-enforced crackdown on businesses flouting Covid-19 measures.

A whistleblowers’ hotline set up in August allowing people to report firms has had more than 800 calls.

Two restaurants in the city were then sanctioned for hosting larger-than-allowed gatherings.

An asylum centre in the Edgbaston area was also handed a direction order, forcing it to tighten Covid-19 control measures, after 56 staff and residents tested positive, the city’s largest outbreak to date.

Only last week, Dr David Rosser, of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, said rumours the virus had weakened were incorrect and medics were “deeply concerned” about a potential increase in hospital admissions.

His warning was echoed by Dr Sue Ibbotson, West Midlands PHE centre director, who said the region was at a “pivotal moment”.

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