Birmingham’s covid outbreak has been blamed on families meeting up at home instead of pubs and restaurants where strict measures are in place – as new lockdown rules are due to be brought in.
Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health in Birmingham, said the city was facing a number of small clusters caused by people meeting in each others’ homes and forgetting to social distance.
He spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside the Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake.
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, restaurants or in gardens.
Dr Varney said: ‘The passage of transmission we’re seeing across the city and in neighbouring areas is that this is about people meeting up behind closed doors where there aren’t covid risk assessments in place and sadly as they pass the biscuits they’re passing covid with it.’
People around Birmingham city centre yesterday before the Government announcement brought in tighter lockdown restrictions for the area following a surge in Covid-19 cases
Dr Justin Varney (left), Director of Public Health in Birmingham, said the city was facing a number of small clusters. He spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside the Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake (right)
Cllr Blake added that she thought it was young people who were to blame for the rising number of cases in Leeds – adding the ‘rule of six’ meant police would be better able to enforce restrictions and prevent a rise in house parties. Pictured, revellers in Leeds last night
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 Varney explained social distancing measures in pubs and restaurants meant people kept apart and rigorous cleaning regimes were in place.
Meanwhile, in people’s homes they tend to forget about the virus in favour of a handshake or a hug.
An anti-COVID protester in Birmingham city centre as the city prepares to go into a local lockdown on Tuesday due to a spike in coronavirus cases
Activist Piers Corbyn appeared at an anti-COVID protest in Birmingham city centre
The protest, which took place at St Philip’s Cathedral and New Street gathered around 100 people, all wearing no masks and not social distancing
‘It’s so easy to do, to make that mistake and sadly give covid as well as the love and friendship you’re trying to share,’ he added.
Leeds yesterday avoided further Covid-19 restrictions as it was announced the city would instead receive enhanced support towards managing the rise in infection rates.
Cllr Blake said she thought it was young people who were to blame for the rising number of cases in Leeds – adding the ‘rule of six’ meant police would be better able to enforce restrictions and prevent a rise in house parties.
She told the Today programme: ‘Our numbers of cases are spreading among young people and it’s really scattered across the whole of the Leeds district.’
Official PHE figures show Birmingham’s case rate was less than 30 per 100,000 by the end of August but this has soared to 78 per 100,000 in less than a fortnight
Britons have promised to run riot and enjoy one last knees-up with friends before Boris Johnson ‘s stringent new coronavirus restrictions come into force on Monday
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
From Tuesday, more than one million people in Birmingham will be banned from mixing with anyone outside of their own household
People gather outside the The Shipwrights Arms near London Bridge on Friday for a final weekend of freedom out before the new rules hit
People gather at More London Place near London Bridge in London for one more weekend of freedom before the government implements its new rule of six from Monday
Revellers dance on the street as a band plays in front of shops in Leeds during one of the last big nights out in the city before new rules on groups are introduced on Monday
She said bringing restrictions into law on Monday would ‘help us with the enforcement with the additional capacity to issue fines’.
‘Police colleagues are making their own case but in terms of what were seeing in Leeds we have a large number of srudents back.
‘There’s been a massive spike in house parties. the ability to fine in those situations will focus their minds on the seriousness of the issue.’
Yesterday, a council spokeswoman said the new rules meant the city would move up one stage from being placed on the national Public Health England watchlist last week as an area of concern.
The seven-day rate of infection now stands at 66 per 100,000 people, with a test positivity of six per cent.
Under Boris Johnson ‘s strict new measures, groups of more than six can be broken up by police who will be able to hand out £100 fines to those who flout the rules. This will double on each repeat offence up to £3,200. Pictured: London Bridge
A police officer smiles as a punter takes a picture of him and touches his face in Leeds, with his colleague watching on laughing
West Midlands mayor Andy Street (right) announced the rules this afternoon following crunch talks with Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left)
The enhanced support status means that Leeds City Council and its partners will work with Government on ways to bring down infection rates, with extra resources provided, the spokeswoman said.
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.
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.
More than 3,500 people tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday, taking the overall number of cases to 361,677 – although millions of infections were missed due to a lack of testing
A further six people died to the disease yesterdat – although experts warn it is only a matter of time before fatalities start to creep up
Revellers rushed to busy beer gardens in London, Manchester and Nottingham in their masses on Friday ahead of the tightening of lockdown rules across Britain from Monday. Pictured: Southbank in London
Four girls pose for a selfie as they head into Manchester city centre for a final weekend of freedom before the ‘rule of six’ hits on Monday
‘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.’
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.
People can be seen heading out for one last night out before new coronavirus rules come into play on Monday. Pictured: Revellers in Nottingham on Friday
Three women look serious as they talk during a walk down a street in Leeds following a ‘last hurrah’ night out last night
Health Secretary Matt Hancock echoed the councillor’s comments about social gatherings being the route cause of increased infections in the West Midlands, adding: ‘We will not hesitate to take further action if needed.’
Meanwhile Liverpool city region has been included in the Government’s coronavirus watch list due to a rising number of infections there.
Kettering, Oadby and Wigston and Luton have been removed from the watchlist after transmission fell in these regions.
It comes as drinkers flocked to pubs and bars across Britain last night for a final weekend of freedom before the Government’s tough new ‘rule of six’ comes into force next week.
Revellers gathered in busy beer gardens in London, Manchester and Nottingham en masse on Friday ahead of the tightening of lockdown rules in the UK from Monday.
Under Boris Johnson’s strict new measures, groups of more than six can be broken up by police who will be able to hand out £100 fines to those who flout the rules. This will double on each repeat offence up to £3,200.
Only schools, workplaces and a limited number of other locations will be exempt.
The latest measure introduced to tackle the spread of coronavirus comes as a Government-led study yesterday suggested the reproduction ‘R’ rate could be as high as 1.7 in England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the spike in infections justifies the Government’s new ‘rule of six’, warning people ‘the pandemic is not over’.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove today urged people to act ‘in tune with’ the rules this weekend ahead of the ‘rule of six’ coming into force or risk increasing the rate of spread of coronavirus.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘If people do behave in a way that is not really in line or in tune with the guidelines that have been put out then they are putting other people at risk.
‘The reason why the country’s police chiefs have said that they hope people behave with appropriate restraint this weekend is we do not want to see a further acceleration of the spread of the virus.’
He denied that the Government was losing control of Covid-19. ‘No. I don’t accept that,’ he said.
Mr Gove also rubbished claims that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s hugely popular Eat Out To Help Out programme contributed to the spread of coronavirus, and said fines could be necessary in order to enforce self-isolation rules.