Birmingham has become the latest city to be hit with new draconian lockdown rules after the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals in the city doubled in a week.
From Tuesday, more than 1.5million people in Birmingham and neighbouring Solihull and Sandwell will be banned from mixing with anyone outside of their own household in private homes, pubs or restaurants.
The move follows two days of crunch talks between the Government and local health leaders after Birmingham’s seven-day infection rate rose to 78 cases per 100,000. It’s difficult to compare Birmingham’s current case rate now to levels at the height of the pandemic because there was a lack of widespread testing during the first wave – meaning thousands of cases went missed and never appeared in the data.
Dr David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, said hospitals in his city were seeing twice the amount of patients as last week. He warned the virus was on ‘an exponential curve’ in the city and he expects admissions to double again in seven days.
Seven people are fighting for their lives in intensive care with the disease and 68 are on wards at the Queen Elizabeth and Heartlands NHS hospitals, according to local reports. And more than 800 people tested positive for the virus in the last week, meaning many could be just days away from needing hospital care.
Meanwhile, scientists behind a major Government-led study today warned Covid-19 infections in England are doubling every week and the reproduction ‘R’ rate could be as high as 1.7. Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said that the spike in infections justify the Government’s strict new rule of six, warning people ‘the pandemic is not over’.
Official PHE figures show Birmingham’s case rate was less than 30 per 100,000 by the end of August (shown) but this figure is thought to have risen to 78 per 100,000
From Tuesday, more than one million people in Birmingham will be banned from mixing with anyone outside of their own household. The rules will also apply to 500,000 people in neighbouring Solihull and Sandwell, where there have been sudden and significant rises in infections
West Midlands mayor Andy Street (right) announced the rules this afternoon following crunch talks with Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left)
A map by Imperial College London predicts which areas will be hit with tough Covid-19 restrictions based on infection rates, with Birmingham highlighted in red
MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29 in England
At the same time, cases in over 80 year olds have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July. Infections have stayed stable among those in their 60s and 70s, while very slightly increasing in those between the ages of 40 to 59 years old
Dr David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, said hospital admissions for Covid were growing exponentially
West Midlands mayor Andy Street, announcing the rules in the West Midlands this afternoon, said: ‘The following areas will now be escalated to an area of national intervention, with a ban on people socialising with people outside their own household.
‘The ban will take effect from Tuesday, September 15, but residents are advised to avoid household mixing before then as it has been identified as one of the drivers of transmission.’ He added the bans applied to the whole of Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull.
‘This decision has been made in collaboration with local leaders who are considering additional local measures to tackle the increase in the number of cases. So to emphasise, this is about mixing between households, it is not about prevention of schools, workplaces, transport, any of the other options – it is about household mixing.’
Mr Street added that the full Government announcement on measures, potentially affecting other areas of the country, will be made ‘later’.
The Leader of Birmingham City Council Ian Ward said there had been a steep rise in the number of new infections occurring at social gatherings and in private homes – as was also the case in other hotspots like Bolton, Leicester, and parts of Scotland, Wales and North West England.
LOCKDOWNS IN THE UK
Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull
West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: ‘The following areas will now be escalated to an area of national intervention, with a ban on people socialising with people outside their own household.
‘The ban will take effect from Tuesday 15th September, but residents are advised to avoid household mixing before then as it has been identified as one of the drivers of transmission.’
He added the bans applied to the whole of Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull.
Wales’s health minister has said local lockdown in the county borough of Caerphilly will not be lifted until October ‘at the very least’.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse after the restrictions come into force at 6pm on Tuesday.
Everyone over the age of 11 will be required to wear face coverings in shops – the first time this will be mandatory in Wales. Meetings with other people indoors and extended households will not be allowed, while overnight stays have also been banned.
Lockdown restrictions on household visits across western parts of Scotland have been continued for a further week – as well as being extended to other council areas.
Measures – originally introduced in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire – now also apply to East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.
The restrictions bar people from visiting separate households in these parts of the country, while also prohibiting them from visiting homes in other local authorities which have not been impacted.
The measures also mean indoor visits to hospitals and care homes will be limited to essential visits only to protect the most vulnerable.
Hospitality venues are being restricted to takeaway-only in Bolton as part of new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the town, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs.
Bolton Council said on Saturday it was introducing tougher measures ‘with immediate effect’, with people asked not to mix with other households in any setting, either indoors or outdoors, and to only use public transport for essential purposes.
The council said the new restrictions aim to prevent a local lockdown, after the town’s infection rate increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week – the highest in England.
Those aged between 18 and 49 account for more than 90 per cent of the cases, the local authority said.
Parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, Preston, and West Yorkshire
If people live in one of the affected areas they must not host people they do not live with in their home or garden, unless they are in their support bubble.
You also must not meet people you do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected area, unless they are in your support bubble, according to the Government website.
A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households within a bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
Blackburn, Oldham and Pendle
As with the above, there is a ban on two households mixing indoors or in a garden.
People should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances.
And in specific areas with additional restrictions, people should not socialise with people they do not live with at indoor public venues or outdoor venues such as parks.
People should not have visitors to their homes or socialise with people they do not live with in other indoor public venues such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions.
They also should not visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances.
There are no local lockdown measures in Northern Ireland so far.
Meanwhile Liverpool city region has been included in the Government’s coronavirus watch list due to a rising number of infections there.
Metropolitan mayor Steve Rotheram said: ‘Over the past week we have seen a rapid increase in Coronavirus cases across the Liverpool City Region.
‘We are not yet at the stage of having extra restrictions imposed on us – as other areas have – but if we continue on our current trajectory, it will become a case of when, not if this happens.’
He added: ‘There is still time to stop that happening – but doing so depends on us and what we choose to do.’
Dr David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, said earlier today that hospitals in his city were seeing twice the amount of patients as last week.
He warned the virus was on ‘an exponential curve’ in the city and he expects admissions to double again in seven days.
The situation unfolding in England’s second city, which is home to more than a million people, could be what is in store for the rest of the country if the current rise in cases cannot be brought under control.
There are signs of hospital admissions rising nationally but they remain at low levels.
But data shows cases are continuing to rise around the country, with the Office for National Statistics predicting there are 3,200 people catching the illness each day – a 50 per cent rise from its prediction of 2,200 last week.
Birmingham’s Dr David Rosser had called for tougher restrictions – seen in Bolton, Leicester and parts of Scotland, Wales and the North West of England – to halt the virus in its tracks.
The warning from the city’s hospitals comes just days after the West Midlands mayor said tougher restrictions there are now ‘very likely’.
Dr Rosser told BirminghamLive: ‘If I had a vote (about local measures) I would say to do something now.
‘Even if we brought in some sort of social measures today to stop the spread completely we would still expect to see cases double in a week – those people have already got it, they just don’t know it yet.
‘We have seen hospital admissions double in a week and I expect it to double in the next week again – it’s an exponential curve. We are in the foothills of that curve.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been mulling over a decision to introduce tougher restrictions on Birmingham and neighbouring Solihull.
Data shows the number of new infections in Birmingham up to Monday has soared to 856, a rate of people 85.4 per 100,000. The rate in Solihull was 61.
Mr Hancock met with regional and local public health officials on Wednesday to thrash out plans about how to deal with Covid in the area.
The health secretary is chairing another meeting today where a decision is expected to be made and announced at some point over the weekend.
Dr Rosser, who was not invited to the lockdown talks, has advocated for some lockdown rules to be rolled back.
But he added: ‘I am not advocating full lockdown, as I recognise the negative side of that (on the economy, mental health and so on) but the status quo will get us into trouble inevitably if we don’t do something.’
While doctors have become better equipped to deal with Covid-19 patients – with new treatments and a better understanding of how to administer oxygen – an influx of Covid-19 sufferers could slow down treatment once again for non-virus patients.
About 75 per cent of hospital activity has been restored, Dr Rosser said, after treatments were ground to a halt during lockdown.
The number of A&E visits – particularly 999 emergencies – in Birmingham have only just got back up to pre-Covid levels of about 1,100 a day.
And suspected cancer referrals seen within the crucial two weeks are higher than would normally be expected at this time of year.
Birmingham has follow the likes of Bolton, Western Scotland, Caerphilly and swathes of Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire as more lockdown rules come in.
It was a move that had been on the cards for weeks now, after the city received a stay of execution last week when it was not given any extra rules from central Government.
Mayor Mr Street even admitted on Wednesday tougher restrictions were ‘likely’ for England’s second city, home to more than a million people.
He said: ‘Thus far, it (the virus) has concentrated in the younger age groups, that’s why we’re not saying that much increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
‘But if we don’t stop this it will translate into these elder age groups and we will have a very serious situation on our hands.’
He added the ‘simplest form of restriction would be city-wide’, adding that given the size of the current infection rate numbers further restrictions were now ‘very, very likely’.
Mr Street said the rise was mostly among under-40s and was being driven by people socialising and meeting with other household.
The alarm was raised in Birmingham at the weekend as the city’s infection rate soared past the 50 mark, which is considered a good indicator of imminent restrictions.
Birmingham public health director Dr Justin Varney said: ‘This is not a false alarm – we are on the precipice and if we are not careful we will be back where we were in April and May and lives will be lost.’
In Bolton, which has the highest rates in the UK, bars and restaurants have already been ordered to shut by 10pm and only serve takeaway to stop people congregating indoors.
Residents in Caerphilly have been banned from leaving the Welsh borough without a ‘reasonable excuse’ – such as needing to go to work or school.
Liverpool, Leeds, Sunderland, Salford and Gateshead are all thought to be at risk of further lockdown rules amid rising cases – according to analysis of official data by Imperial College London.
Researchers at the university have created a map which aims to predict the places where cases will soar, based on how fast infections are rising there.
The map shows the probability that a local authority will become a hotspot by September 26, based on a percentage.
It had said Birmingham was 100 per cent likely to be hit with restrictions and Leeds and the Wirral have a 99 per cent chance.
Rounding out the rest of the hotspots are Sunderland (98 per cent), Gateshead (96 per cent), Hertsmere (96 per cent per cent, Salford (96 per cent) and Liverpool (95 per cent)
Although cases have risen, the positive test rate – how many people test positive out of all those tested – has not reached levels seen during the pandemic. This gives an indication that some cases are due to more focused testing in hotspots, but not all, given that the positivity rate is starting to creep up
A woman walks around Birmingham city centre today wearing a mask as it was announced the area will be put back into lockdown from Tuesday
Hundreds are testing positive for the virus every week in Birmingham (pictured), meaning many could be just days away from needing hospital care
The entrance to a coronavirus testing site is pictured at the University of Birmingham campus on the outskirts of the city this morning
DATA CONFIRMS CORONAVIRUS CASES ARE RISING ACROSS THE UK
Coronavirus infections in England are doubling every week and the reproduction ‘R’ rate could be as high as 1.7, a Government-led study has found.
Experts who have been swabbing half a million people in England during the crisis found an estimated 13 people per 100,000 were infected between August 22 and September 7. This was up from just four people per 100,000 between July and August 11, according to the study carried out by Imperial College London.
Scientists behind the paper, called REACT-1, said their findings show the epidemic is doubling in size every ‘seven to eight days’. By comparison, Covid-19 infections were increasing by twofold every three days at the start of the crisis.
But prevalence of the virus is still much lower now than it was back in March – about 3,000 people will get infected every day this week compared to 100,000 a day six months ago. It means it would take several months for the outbreak to escalate to a situation the country found itself in during the first wave.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: ‘I think the really important thing here is that this system was set up as an early warning system. And I think it has picked up the signal early. And that’s being fed in to Government.’
The study findings were one of the driving forces behind the tightening of lockdown restrictions this week, as well as other Covid-19 surveillance studies which have found a similar, sudden rise in the number of people testing positive.
The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, said today it estimates at least 3,200 people are getting infected each day. This is a surge of 1,000 per day from the 2,200 it predicted last week. This is echoed by data from the Covid Symptom Tracker app, run by King’s College London scientists, which predicts there are 3,610 new cases each day across the whole UK.
The Office for National Statistics, a Government-run agency, said today it estimates at least 3,200 people are getting infected each day. This is a surge of 1,000 per day from the 2,200 it predicted last week
Estimates from the ONS show that the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus has risen to almost 0.1 per cent, which would be one in every 1,000 people
Revealed: How 38 MILLION people in low or no Covid areas are being forced to live under stricter ‘rule of six’ because of small pockets of Britain with rising infection rates
More than two thirds of people in England are being forced into stricter coronavirus rules next week despite living in unaffected areas, because some parts of the country can’t keep the virus under control.
Around 38million residents will be lumped into lockdown as the nation is told to ‘limit social contact’ and face fines or police action if they meet in groups of more than six people, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday.
One Conservative MP said it was unfair to take such a ‘broad brush’ approach that pulled together people in at-risk inner city areas with those living in the spaced-out countryside.
Local authority data reveals that 65 per cent (210 out of 320) of councils have a rate of coronavirus cases below 20 per 100,000, the level at which the Government considers quarantine measures for foreign countries.
And an analysis of postcode data by The Telegraph shows 75 per cent – or 5,157 areas – have a rate below 20 per 100,000. Around 7,200 people are estimated to live in each postcode, which when multiplied gives 38 million.
The UK’s coronavirus outbreak is mostly being driven by cases in hotspots including Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Birmingham and Leicester, with many areas in local lockdown measures or receiving extra Government support.
Hundreds of towns and villages all over the country have managed to keep their coronavirus cases low but will still be subject to the draconian new measures.
Rural areas in the South West, for example, have escaped the worst of the virus’s impact for most of the outbreak but are still being subjected to the tough rules faced by the rest of the country.
Lesser-affected areas include places such as Northumberland and Bishop Auckland in the North, to Weymouth, Ashford and Winchester in the south.
All will be required to ensure people meet in groups no larger than six indoors and outdoors, and subject to fines ranging from £100 to £3,200 if they fail to comply, despite their low numbers of coronavirus cases.
A Conservative former Minister criticised the measures as a ‘very broad brush’ and said that something ‘more concentrated’ would have been better.
David Jones MP told MailOnline: ‘I can understand that the Government has to do something, because there is certainly an uptick.
‘But it is not an uptick across the country as a whole. There are some parts of the country such as Devon, Dorset where there is very little virus activity at all.
‘So it does seem to be very broad brush… I would have thought something more concentrated would be better.’
He added that while crowded pubs had been ‘asking for trouble’ it was ‘not something that appears to be uniform across the country’. ‘Something more focused would be appropriate,’ he said.
Dorset has recorded 37 cases in the past week, giving it a rate of just 8.7 per 100,000 according to official data. And Exeter, which is in Devon, has recorded 10 cases in the past week, giving it a rate of 7.7 per 100,000.
Christopher Snowdon, the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said the Government had ‘over-reacted’ to a rise in cases by bringing in the draconian measures.
‘Figures show that the (coronavirus) problem is still quite highly localised, despite what was said yesterday,’ he told MailOnline. ‘I look at the map where you can check outbreaks and, in my neck of the woods, there are huge stretches of land where there are less than two cases.
‘It suggests to me that local lockdowns or local restrictions are still the best way forward and the broad brush approach is, at best, premature.
‘I think the Government has maybe decided to bring in this ‘Rule of Six’ because it will have a smaller economic impact than closing pubs or schools, but there will be an economic impact. You can’t have more than six people in a group in restaurants, for example.
‘I know the hospitality industry is very concerned. (They) are still trying to balance the economy and risk to some extent, but they got the balance wrong.’