Households banned from mixing in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull from Tuesday

11 September 2020, 14:18 | Updated: 11 September 2020, 18:03

New restrictions have been brought into effect in Birmingham and surrounding areas
New restrictions have been brought into effect in Birmingham and surrounding areas. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Over a million people living in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull will be banned from meeting people outside of their household from Tuesday, in the UK's latest local lockdown.

The announcement from West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, was widely expected, after the latest seven-day rate for Birmingham showed 78.2 cases per 100,000.

The Mayor said he had been permitted to escalate the region “to an area of national intervention”, with the agreement of Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

"The ban will take effect from Tuesday 15th September, but residents are advised to avoid household mixing before then as it has been identified as one of the drivers of transmission”, he said.

The city of 1.4 million people is now third in a national table of high infection rates, behind Bolton and Sunderland, despite only recording 30 cases per 100,000 in the last week of August.

Kettering, Oadby and Wigston and Luton have also been removed from the coronavirus watchlist.

Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward: “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.

“People can still go out to shops and to restaurants and other venues that are open, though not with other households, but remember to be vigilant; if a venue doesn’t look safe and you are not asked for your contact details, take your business elsewhere.”

In a worrying development, Cllr Ward said the city has seen "an increase of hospital admissions with Covid-19 and an increase in cases in care homes".

“For those who are not following the rules, take a look at the number of hospital admissions. This is very real, the virus is out there and it still kills people”, Cllr Ward said.

The decision to increase restrictions has been “made in collaboration with local leaders who are considering additional local measures to tackle the increase in the number of cases," the Mayor said.

He added: "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."

Mayor Street said the full Government announcement on measures, potentially affecting other areas of the country, would be made "later".

Cllr Ward explained that the restrictions “apply both inside and outside the city boundary”.

"If you live in the city boundary, you cannot mix with another household outside the city boundary.

"If you live in the affected area, in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, you must not host people you do not live with in your home or garden, unless they're in your support bubble.

Earlier on Friday, West Midlands police urged people to “take responsibility” with coronavirus restrictions and said there would be a "targeted" response once they establish where the infection risk lies within communities.

According to Dr Justin Varney, the Birmingham's director of public health, the huge increase in September is believed to be "linked primarily to private household gatherings" happening at the end of August and during the bank holiday weekend.

Flouting of social distancing and contact tracing rules in pubs, bars and restaurants has also been highlighted as a reason, while an increase in testing likely turned up more positive results.

The Mayor said earlier this week that new restrictions were "very, very likely" as he warned younger people to "take responsibility".

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “The reinforcement of the nationwide rule of 6 for social gatherings sends a clear signal to us all - the whole country must continue to stay vigilant and practice social distancing to beat this virus.

“After seeing cases in the West Midlands continue to rise, the decision has been taken in collaboration with local leaders to ban households mixing in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull. We never take these decisions lightly but social gatherings can spread the virus quickly, and we need residents to abide by the new rules to break the chains of transmission.  

“Where targeted action has been taken, we are seeing signs of progress, and today’s easements in Leicester are proof that the measures we are putting in place in collaboration with local councils have a positive effect.

“We will not hesitate to take further action if needed, and my appeal to you all is to get a test if you are symptomatic, stay at home if you are required to self-isolate, and to constantly think: hands, face, space. Only then can we avoid further restrictions, and return to a sense of normality”

The government also announced that some business will be able to reopen in Leicester from Tuesday 15 September, which will now be subject to the same business restrictions as the majority of England.

Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres and indoor play areas (including soft play areas) will be able to lawfully reopen from Tuesday next week.  

Data released on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows the estimate for R across the UK is between 1.0 and 1.2.

An average of 3,200 people per day were estimated to be newly infected with Covid-19 between August 30 and September 5, the ONS said.

This is up from an average of 2,000 people per day between August 19 and 25.

Government scientific advisors have described the figures as a "wake-up call", saying additional measures such as local interventions may be needed to control the spread of the virus.