A series of tougher measures have been imposed in Birmingham after a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The move follows two days of discussions between the government and regional health and local authority leaders after the city’s seven-day infection rate rose to 78.2 cases per 100,000 of the population.
Guidance that people cannot socialise outside of their households in the city will be made law, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced. .
The West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, had said this week that additional restrictions were “very, very likely”. He said younger people should “take responsibility”, with the biggest growth in cases in the under-40 age groups.
During the West Midlands regional briefing, Street, announced the ban on households mixing in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull describing it as a “national intervention ban on people socialising with people outside their household. The ban will offcially come into force on Tuesday, 15 September, however, Street urged the public to start adhering immediately.
The city’s director of public health, Dr Justin Varney, said the uptick was linked primarily to private household gatherings at the end of August and across the bank holiday weekend. An increase in testing had also turned up more positive results, he added.
The city had already been moved up the the Public Health England (PHE) watchlist, which ranks local authority areas of concern by infection rate, when it was deemed an area in need of “enhanced support” last month after recording a seven-day infection rate above 30 per 100,000 people.
In response, the local authority introduced tougher measures, agreed with the government, including a legally enforced crackdown on businesses flouting Covid-19 measures. A whistleblowers’ hotline has had more than 800 calls.
Birmingham is third in a national table of local authority areas with the highest infection rates, behind Bolton and Sunderland. Bolton’s seven-day rate stands at 143 cases per 100,000, and Sunderland is on 84, according to data from NHS Digital.
Last week the head of England’s biggest NHS hospital trust said there was “absolutely no scientific evidence” that coronavirus was weakening, as he warned against complacency in Birmingham.
Dr David Rosser, of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS trust, said rumours that the virus had significantly mutated into a less virulent form were incorrect and medics were “deeply concerned” about an increase in hospital admissions.