New coronavirus restrictions introduced in West Midlands

Birmingham, the UK’s second-largest city, has been hit with new coronavirus restrictions, following a surge in infections both locally and nationally. 

From September 15, residents in Birmingham, and its neighbouring boroughs of Sandwell and Solihull — an area home to 1.6m people in total — will be unable to meet people from other households indoors or in private gardens unless they are in a protected “bubble” with them.

Official figures show that in the seven days up until September 7, Birmingham’s case rate had increased to 85.4 per 100,000, the second highest rate in the country after Bolton.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, announced the news on Thursday afternoon, arguing that the restrictions were necessary because many within the city had failed to stick to social distancing rules when meeting friends and family. 

“If we don’t do this now, we risk more loss of life, even stricter measures in future, and more job losses,” he said.

Clive Wright, Covid-19 regional convener for the West Midlands, said that the public had become too relaxed, and with hospital admissions rising again he warned that coronavirus was still a “killer disease”. 

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham city council, said: “I understand that it may be frustrating that you can go to the pub but not see your family, but the data we have shows that the infection rate has risen mainly due to social interactions, particularly private household gatherings.”

The city has been on high alert in recent days and on Tuesday, Birmingham’s public health director, Justin Varney, issued a stark message to residents. 

He 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.”

Over the past week, the government has introduced a swath of new lockdown measures amid fears that the nation is heading for a second wave.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has steadily increased since the beginning of September, with a further 2,919 positive results recorded on Thursday.

According to analysis conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, has shown that the number of positive cases within England is now doubling every seven to eight days, while according to official data the UK’s R number, the rate at which the disease reproduces, now stands between 1.0 and 1.2. 

Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the introduction of the first national restrictions in England since March and encouraged the public to avoid “social contact” with others “as much as possible”. 

The measures included a six-person limit on social gatherings punishable by a £100 fine, the introduction of “Covid secure marshals” within city centres and a new legal requirement forcing venues such as pubs to take the contact details of every customer and retain them for 21 days.

Lockdown measures remain in force in Greater Manchester and parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, where cases are rising again despite the restrictions.

Liverpool and most of Merseyside were also added to the government watch list after a rise in cases and could have lockdown measures imposed at any time.

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