The Mayor of Luton and two councillors were pictured breaking lockdown rules by attending a party, just days before Luton was designated an ‘area of intervention’ by government health officials because of rising coronavirus cases.
Mayor Tahir Malik was pictured at the outdoor gathering for 12 people in a back garden on July 21, along with councillors Waheed Akbar and Asif Masood, along with around nine other men.
The three men have apologised for breaking the rules, but blamed ‘additional guests’ by making the initially small gathering too big.
The party was attended by over double the number of people allowed to gather under coronavirus laws.
Photos of the gathering were shared on Facebook, including one of the mayor wearing his mask hanging dangling below his chin, but not covering his nose and mouth.
Mayor Tahir Malik, pictured above standing at the end of the table, was photographed at the outdoor gathering on July 21 with councillors Waheed Akbar and Asif Masood, along with around nine other men
The rules breach has sparked anger among Luton locals who are potentially facing a local lockdown.
On Thursday, Luton – along with Blackburn – joined Leicester in reaching the highest level on the government’s coronavirus watchlist, with Luton being designated as an ‘area of intervention’ by Public Health England (PHE).
The pictures of the party showed that none of the attendees were wearing facemasks properly, and they were seen sitting in close-quarters while eating together around a table, and posing for a photograph together.
Since June 1, lockdown laws have stated that a maximum of six people can meet outdoors – including gardens – providing people from different households keep a distance of two meters apart – or one meter with a face covering.
‘We apologise unreservedly to the people of Luton for our breach of the lockdown rules,’ the three Labour councillors said in a statement to Luton Today.
‘We attended what we believed was going to be a small socially distanced gathering, in line with the government guidelines.
The Mayor and the two councillors who were caught out at the party have since apologised, saying the gathering was larger than they expected it to be
‘During the course of the event, the arrival of additional guests meant the rules were breached.
‘We should have left immediately, and it is a matter of sincere regret for each of us that we did not do so.
‘It is all of our responsibility to follow the guidelines. We are sorry that we did not live up to the standards that are rightly expected of us.’
A spokesman from the eastern branch of the local Labour Party said the party’s Chief Whip was investigating the apparent lockdown breach.
Men at the party were seen sitting around the table having dinner, and not observing social distancing measures that state that people not in the same household should remain at least two meters apart, or one meter plus if they are wearing face coverings
‘It is essential that everybody follows social distancing measures in order to protect the public from COVID-19,’ the spokesman told the news outlet.
‘It is even more important for those in positions of authority to be setting the right example.
‘The Labour Party investigates all complaints received and where rules have been breached, action will be taken in line with the Labour Party’s processes.’
Luton Borough Council is said to be waiting on a decision from the Labour Party before opening any procedures of its own.
A spokesperson for the council said: ‘The council has received complaints concerning the alleged conduct of three councillors.
‘We take all such complaints extremely seriously and an investigation into their alleged behaviour will be started and a decision arrived at.’
Coronavirus cases in England appear to be creeping up with 1,000 more people estimated to be catching the disease every day than they were last week, official data showed today as the UK recorded 123 more Covid-19 deaths.
All of the victims are assumed to be in England considering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland health agencies reported zero fatalities for the second day running. The new deaths take the total in the UK to 45,677.
Covid-19 cases have reached 297,914, according to the Government tally. Some 770 new cases were announced by the Department of Health today, the highest in a week and taking the seven-day rolling average up to 668 – a nine per cent increase on last Friday.
It comes as Office for National Statistics data based on population testing estimate that daily infections have risen from 1,700 to 2,800 in the space of seven days, to a current total of 22,400 new cases per week.
It suggests one in 2,000 people across the country were carrying Covid-19 within the most recent week up to July 19 – a total of 27,700 people or 0.05 per cent of the population.
This figure has crept up from the estimated 0.04 per cent (24,000) thought to be infected last week and the 0.03 per cent (14,000) the week before.
The ONS has stopped short of saying the crisis is growing because all three estimates are based on complex trend models and fall within a possible range.
But statisticians behind the report say the week-on-week rises indicate that the epidemic’s decline at least ‘levelled off’.
Meanwhile SAGE warned today that the virus’s R rate – the average number of people each coronavirus patients infects – has risen to between 0.7 and one or 0.8 and one in all regions of England for the first time since lockdown was lifted.
The R needs to stay below one to prevent future outbreaks from spiralling out of control.
It doesn’t necessarily mean England is on the brink of another crisis, however, because scientists say when case numbers are as low as they are, the R becomes more volatile and small clusters can skew the rate upwards.
Separate data from Public Health England today revealed that Covid-19 infection rates have risen in 63 areas of the country compared to last week, with Blackburn with Darwen in the North West now the worst affected area.
COVID-19 CASES IN BRITAIN ARE PLATEAUING WITH 2,000 INFECTED EVERY DAY
COVID-19 cases in Britain are barely dropping with almost 2,000 people still becoming infected each day, experts say.
King’s College London’s COVID Symptom Tracker app estimates cases have remained stable over July for the UK as a whole, but appear to be ‘creeping up’ in the north of England.
The latest figures were based on the data from 13,451 swab tests done between 5 July to 18 July.
Similar to last week, the data suggests that the number of daily new cases in the UK has remained flat. A predicted 1,884 daily new cases of COVID in the UK on average over the two weeks up to 18 July.
It’s down slightly from the 2,100 estimate given last week, based on swabs taken between June 28 and July 11. But in the last two weeks of June, there were only 1,400 new daily new cases up until July 4 — when ‘Super Saturday’ led to the opening of pubs, restaurants and salons.
Experts said last week the fluctuations are too small to say definitively that the outbreak is growing once again. But they are certain cases are not dropping anymore and the epidemic has ‘definitely levelled off’.
A clear North/South divide is also appearing across England, as cases have remained stable in the South but appear to be rising in the North.
The South East is seeing around 210 new infections per day, and the South West just 136. London is experiencing some 256 new cases a day.
In the North West and North East and Yorkshire, a predicted 434 and 457 people are catching the virus every day, respectively. That’s up from the 321 and 401 estimations from the previous week.
Again, the team said the numbers of cases in regions are still so low that any uptick in figures is still not yet statistically significant. The increase in numbers could be in relation to more testing.
Official government data also shows the number of people being diagnosed with the disease has surged. This is only people who are tested because they are symptomatic or get a test because they were in contact with a case.
The Department of Health revealed yesterday a further 769 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours until July 23 9am. The seven-day-average has increased by more than 10 per cent.