Coronavirus: Households to be banned from meeting each other in Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell

Households will be banned from meeting each other in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull from Tuesday.

The order from the Department of Health was announced at a news conference by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

COVID-19 infections in Birmingham have been increasing – and there are also concerns about the rising number of cases nationally.

According to NHS Digital data, the latest seven-day rate for Birmingham to 8 September showed 78.2 cases per 100,000 with 892 cases over the period – among the highest in the city since April’s peak.

For the previous seven-day period, the rate was just over 30.

Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham City Council, said the rise in the percentage of reported coronavirus cases includes “people of a white ethnicity”.

He added there has been “an increase of hospital admissions with COVID-19 and an increase in cases in care homes”.

Mr Ward added: “The spread appears to be primarily occurring through social interactions, especially private household gatherings, and workplaces where social-distancing is not being observed.”

He continued: “The city’s position now is that we have become an area of intervention in line with places such as Greater Manchester.”

Mr Ward also confirmed that people in Birmingham will not be able to mix with any households, indoors or in private gardens, except for those in a support bubble, from Tuesday.

He continued: “This restriction will 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.

“You must not meet people who do not live with, in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected area, unless in your support bubble.”

The city of 1.14 million had already been moved up the national Public Health England (PHE) watchlist, which ranks local authority areas of concern by infection rate.

Birmingham was deemed an area in need of “enhanced support” last month, after recording a seven-day infection rate above 30 per 100,000 people.

Of particular concern to health chiefs has been the daily rise in the infection rate.

In response, Birmingham City Council ramped up measures – agreed with the government – including a legally enforced crackdown on businesses breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

The city’s director of public health Dr Justin Varney said the increase was “linked primarily to private household gatherings” at the end of August and during the bank holiday weekend.

An increase in testing had also turned up more positive results, he added.

Licensed premises, like pubs and bars, and restaurants flouting contact-tracing rules and social distancing, are also believed to be part of the problem behind rising rates.

The mayor also said younger people “had got to take responsibility” with the biggest growth in age groups under 40.

The current positive infections tally puts Birmingham third in a national table of local authority areas of highest infection rates, behind Bolton and Sunderland.

Bolton’s seven-day rate currently stands at 143 cases per 100,000, and Sunderland is on 84, according to data from NHS Digital.

Solihull’s latest infection rate for the week ending 8 September stands at 62.8.

Another neighbouring borough, Sandwell, has struggled with high rates for weeks.

Elsewhere, Leeds, which is in 13th place on the infection rates table with 60 cases per 100,000, could also face tougher measures.

A total of 474 new cases were recorded in the city over the week.

Previous seven-day data showed other cities recording sharp increases in their weekly rate, including Salford, Manchester and Liverpool.

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