Birmingham could be on the verge of lockdown after ministers met today to work out plans to combat the city's spiraling Covid-19 outbreak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is believed to have chaired the Gold Command Meeting this morning with Council Chairs and Public Health England officials.
Official figures show that the infection rate in Birmingham has more than doubled in the past 14 days. Between August 11 and August 17, there were around 25 new cases of coronavirus for every 100,000 people – from just 11 in the first week of August.
Government data shows that several counties have similar numbers of new infections, and no specific counties in the city, home to 1.1 million people, are responsible for the rising cases.
Council Chairs are desperate to prevent further damage to the already crippled local economy through tougher lockdown measures such as the virus-fighting measures imposed in the Northwest and Leicester.
Ministers are also expected to decide today whether further restrictions are needed to contain the virus in Oldham, Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle.
The Department of Health offered the councils additional testing facilities last week and announced that they would closely monitor outbreaks later this week. Every region of the UK faces stricter restrictions, including closing unnecessary shops and pubs and restaurants if cases arise.
Oldham – currently the worst hit location in England, with a new infection rate of 70.5 cases per 100,000 people per week – is also said to be on the brink of a major local lockdown that could see restaurants, bars, gyms and other shops close.
Labor council chairman Sean Fielding warned it was a "very real threat". Official data shows the city's infection rate dropped 100 last week but has fallen 37 percent since then.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham claimed "there is certainly no case" of granting additional measures to Oldham, which is home to 235,000 people.
He argued it was "clear" that current policies in the region in late July of banning separate households from meeting at home had helped tackle spiraling cases.
And Mr Burnham has asked ministers to exempt Wigan from the tougher measures because his infection rate is still low and has not increased. Three MPs and council presidents have also requested the city's release.
Government statistics show that Wigan's infection rate – the number of newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people per week – has risen steadily to 9.4 since the end of July. But it is still below the national average (10.2).
Official figures show that the city of Birmingham's infection rate has more than doubled in the past 14 days. There are around 25 new cases of coronavirus for every 100,000 people – from just 11 in the first week of August
Birmingham is currently not on Public Health England's coronavirus watchlist, which released its list of 29 hotspots last Friday. Officials announced that Newark and Sherwood, which are home to around 120,000 people, are a "problem area." In the week ending August 11, about 26.3 cases of coronavirus were diagnosed for every 100,000 people living in the district
Council presidents are desperate to prevent further damage to the already crippled local economy by being hit by tougher lockdown measures such as those in the North West and Leicester. In the picture an eerily quiet street in the city center of Birmingham
There is hope that Wigan will be exempted from stricter Covid-19 restrictions as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says cases in the community have slowed.
WHICH CITIES ARE ON THE COVID-19 WATCH LIST?
Blackburn with Darwen (77.9)
Newark and Sherwood (26.3)
Oadby and Wigston (22.8)
Infection rate is the number of cases diagnosed in the week ending August 11 for every 100,000 people living in the district – the latest figures from Public Health England. The rate rose in cities in bold.
Birmingham City Council chairman Ian Ward told the Local Government Chronicle that Mr. Hancock would chair this morning. Heads of government have not yet released details from the meeting.
Speaking at yesterday's meeting, Mr. Ward said, "We are trying to avoid a local lockdown for obvious reasons – we don't want to harm the local economy." But there are no easy answers.
& # 39; We're talking to the government about a plan for dealing with the top in cases. The difficulty is that there is nothing that we can easily call a cause.
“There's no one big breakout business – although there are a number of small breakout businesses across town. The maximum was six cases in one place. & # 39;
Mr Ward announced that the council will urge the government to provide more walk-in and drivable test centers across the city.
Birmingham is currently not on Public Health England's coronavirus watchlist, which released its list of 29 hotspots last Friday.
Officials announced that Newark and Sherwood, which are home to around 120,000 people, are a "problem area." In the week ending August 11, about 26.3 cases of coronavirus were diagnosed for every 100,000 people living in the district.
For comparison, the agency's weekly infection rate was higher than four areas that were already facing more severe restrictions in the northwest – Stockport (25), Trafford (20.3), Wigan (9.2) and Rossendale (4.2).
Nine counties on the watchlist, including Swindon (44.1) and Northampton (38.6), are not yet affected by a ban on household gatherings.
No further restrictions were imposed on Oldham last week despite fears that tougher measures could hit it.
Mr Burnham urged the government not to "overreact" to the surge in some cases and has since called for Wigan to be exempted from the measures.
Speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday, Mr Burnham said, “We are going to go to the government today to say the measures are working and we want them to last in nine of our ten counties with the higher number of cases because of course we have to Lower numbers further.
However, in the case of Wigan, it is clear that I think the measures have had a preventative impact and have stopped the surge we have seen in other parts of Greater Manchester. I think we can say they worked. & # 39;
Up to 100 guests were interviewed by police after officials were called to reports of a "wedding reception" in an Indian restaurant in violation of Covid-19 rules. A "large number of vehicles and guests" are said to have been at Badshah Palace in Great Barr, Birmingham, at around 9pm on Sunday
POLICE QUIZ 100 DINNER AT THE INDIAN RESTAURANT IN BIRMINGHAM AFTER CALLING OFFICIALS TO A "WEDDING PARTY".
Up to 100 guests were interviewed by police after officials were called to reports of a "wedding reception" in an Indian restaurant in violation of Covid-19 rules.
A "large number of vehicles and guests" are said to have been at Badshah Palace in Great Barr, Birmingham, at around 9pm on Sunday.
Some of these guests were in "wedding attire," said West Midlands Police.
The troop said they were reminding owners that it was illegal to hold large gatherings, parties or wedding receptions under coronavirus rules, adding that they are now in contact with local authorities about alleged violations.
Mohammed Rashid, who runs the Badshah Palace, insisted that most of those who spoke to the police on Sunday told officers they were out for dinner, while some guests who didn't speak good English referred to it as a wedding.
He added that the booking was made by a guest on behalf of other families with a range of table sizes requested.
Mr Burnham agreed with Wigan Council Chairman David Molyneux who said it was "unfair to the people of Wigan to continue these restrictions as the number of cases is at fairly consistent levels".
Mr Molyneux said, "I think there is now a very strong case for easing restrictions in Wigan and I am sure the people of Wigan will fully appreciate it."
"I am very satisfied and very proud of the residents, how they reacted in this current situation that we were struggling with."
The Presidents of the Council wrote to Mr Hancock yesterday asking for the Wigan area to be removed from the Greater Manchester area.
However, the other nine wards still need further review, five admitted.
In Greater Manchester overall, cases have remained stable at around 35 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, data from the virtual press conference shows.
But Bury, Manchester City, Salford and Trafford saw spikes in the week leading up to August 15 despite tougher Covid-19 measures.
Wigan's infection rate rose from 7.3 to 9.4 in the past week, higher than in late July when she was 7 years old.
Oldham tops the list with an infection rate of 83.1 per 100,000 as it is close to a full lockdown.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a local lockdown, despite requests from local officials to avoid "knee-jerk" decisions and "overreaction".
Speaking to ITV News yesterday, Mr. Hancock said, "No, we are not ruling anything out, either in Oldham or anywhere else in the country."
A government spokesman said it was unlikely to see any announcement of local lockdowns today.
The approach has been consistently pushed back, which Burnham said wasn't right for Oldham, even if it was for Leicester.
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During the virtual press conference last night, Mr Burnham said he had written to Mr Hancock and that there was "no case" to impose further restrictions on Oldham.
The letter, co-signed by three Labor MPs, requests an additional two-week deadline to allow enough time for local action to continue.
"We think we can say with credibility that the strategy is working," said Burnham.
& # 39; It's very focused, proportionate, and we believe the point is to keep doing what we do to see if we can then get another decline in the days to come.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham claimed "there is certainly no case" of granting additional measures to Oldham, which is home to 235,000 people
OLDHAM LOCKDOWN WOULD & # 39; TENSIONS & # 39;
A return to full lockdown restrictions in Oldham would "fuel" community tensions, the council chairman warned.
In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, Council Chairman Sean Fielding said that a major concern about the introduction of lockdown measures was its "social cohesion" impact.
"There are examples of people in communities blaming other communities to justify their own failure to comply with the restrictions," he said.
“We had house parties in different parts of the district. We are up against several companies that are not in the central areas of Oldham.
“We have a particularly high incidence of cases in central Oldham areas and there are more people from the South Asian community in those areas.
“But even in these communities there is high levels of poverty, high levels of cramped and overcrowded housing, and high levels of people working in publicly accessible professions that have never been closed because they were important workers.
"It's pretty crude and imprecise to call it an ethnic problem. There are many more underlying factors."
So today there is certainly no case of imposing any further restrictions on Oldham beyond the prohibition of home social gatherings. & # 39;
Oldham Council chairman Sean Fielding said a full lockdown was "a very real threat to Oldham" based on communications with the government.
He said, “We have heard from the government that this is really being considered.
& # 39; So, it's very real. It is a very real threat to Oldham, make no mistake at all, but we are strongly opposed for all of the reasons I have outlined today. & # 39;
He added, “It is almost frustrating that the plans that we want to continue implementing to bring the infection rate down as we need to are not being fully utilized because of the amount of time we have spent on them to argue with the government and others about how we oppose local bans and we think this is wrong. & # 39;
Mr. Fielding told reporters thClosing bars, restaurants and shops would not make a “measurable difference” to the spread of Covid-19 because The vast majority of new cases spread between households.
"It doesn't come from people going to non-essential stores and picking it up when they buy a t-shirt in a previously closed store or have a beer in the pub," he said.
"Closing non-essential businesses in Oldham would not change that, it would not solve this problem," he said, warning that the economy was "fragile" and has not recovered from the national blockade.
"A further shutdown of the economy would be catastrophic for us and so we are resolutely opposed," he told reporters.
Even so, Mr Fielding and several MPs advocating keeping Oldham open say there is "no evidence" to suggest that more people have contracted the virus in the past few weeks, blaming increasing rates of infection on wider testing.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mr. Fielding said a local lockdown was an "early" move and not "evidence-based".
He claimed it was very difficult to quarantine Oldham from the area as the city was "fully and completely connected to other parts of Manchester".
LOCKDOWN RULES: WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO
affected areas: Preston, Greater Manchester (City of Manchester, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Tameside, Rochdale and Salford), Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leicester.
You must not: Meet people who you do not live with in a private household or garden, unless you have formed a support bubble (or other exceptions provided by law).
Visit someone else's home or garden, even if they live outside the affected areas.
You should not: Meet with people you don't live with in other indoor public spaces – such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centers, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions.
Punish: Fines starting at £ 100 and halving to £ 50 when paid in the first 14 days, but doubling for later violations.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO THE RULES AFFECT?
Greater Manchester (including the city of Manchester, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Tameside, Rochdale and Salford): 2,835,686
Blackburn with Darwen: 149.696
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