BIRMINGHAM will become the latest area to go into lockdown after being monitored on the government's coronavirus "watch list".
And now tough new lockdown restrictions will come into force this week in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull after the number of hospital patients with coronavirus doubled in a week. So what can we expect?
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Is Birmingham in local lockdown?
Parts of Birmingham will go into local lockdown from Tuesday, 15 September.
Ministers announced the partial lockdown in Birmingham and two neighbouring boroughs, Solihull and Sandwell, on Saturday.
The shutdown affects more than 1.6million people.
The move came after regional health and local authority leaders engaged in two days of talks.
What are the rules and restrictions in Birmingham?
The ramped-up rules mean a ban on different households meeting indoors in the three areas – except for those in a support bubble.
Birmingham City Council confirmed people could still go out to shops, restaurants and other venues, in a maximum group of six from more than one household, but told people to be "vigilant".
The West Midlands mayor Andy Street announced the new measures on Friday as the region's R rate stood between 1.0 and 1.5.
What are the new rules in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull?
From Tuesday, residents in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull must not:
- Host people they do not live with in their home or garden, unless they’re in their support bubble
- Meet people they do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected area, unless they’re in their support bubble
He said: "This is about mixing between households, it is not about prevention of schools, workplaces, transport, any of the other options."
Explaining where the new measures will apply in Birmingham, Cllr Ward said: "From Tuesday September 15, Birmingham residents will not be able to mix with any other households, indoors or in private gardens, except for those in a support bubble.
"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."
He added: "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."
Has there been a rise in cases?
According to NHS Digital data, the seven-day rate for the city to September 8 showed 78.2 cases per 100,000 with 892 cases over the period – among the highest in Birmingham since April's peak.
For the previous seven-day period, the rate was just over 30.
Solihull's latest infection rate for the week ending September 8 was 62.8 per 100,000, while Sandwell has battled with stubbornly high infection rates for weeks.
Birmingham is now 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 192 cases per 100,000, and Sunderland is on 84, according to data from NHS Digital.
Speaking of a potential lockdown in the area on September 10, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are seeing some sharp rises in cases across many parts of the West Midlands.
"And so we do take these decisions on a localised basis."
There are currently 68 patients undergoing treatment across Birmingham,and seven of them, aged 40 to 75, are in intensive care in Queen Elizabeth and Heartlands hospitals.
Dr David Rosser, chief executive at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), told Birmingham Live: "If I had a vote (about local measures) I would say to do something now."
He added: "Even if we brought in some sort of social measures today to stop the spread completely we would still expect to see cases double in a week – those people have already got it, they just don't know it yet.
"We have seen hospital admissions double in a week and I expect it to double in the next week again – it's an exponential curve. We are in the foothills of that curve."
Dr Mark Garvey, consultant microbiologist and deputy chief of infection prevention and control for the same trust, said cases have gone up from about ten around two weeks ago, to 23 last week, to 68 this week, of which 32 are actively infected.
He warned: "At our peak we had 708 inpatients at one time, of which about one in six were critically ill. We are seeing the same proportion now."
Why have case numbers increased?
The city's director of public health Dr Justin Varney said the uptick in coronavirus cases was "linked primarily to private household gatherings", at the end of August and across the bank holiday weekend.
He added that an increase in testing had also turned up more positive results.
Pubs, bars and restaurants flouting contact-tracing rules and social distancing, are also believed to be part of the problem behind rising rates.
What other cities in the UK have been placed into lockdown?
On July 30, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that parts of Northern England would start to face new restrictions due to localised outbreaks.
“Based on the data, we decided that in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire & East Lancashire we need to take immediate action to keep people safe,” he tweeted.
“The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing.
“So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas.”
At the moment, Leicester remains under limited lockdown restrictions, with residents awaiting news of the next review.
Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were thrown back into lockdown after new cases of coronavirus spiked.
Restrictions in Leicester and the North West also remain in place, while Luton is undergoing "enhanced support" from the government, meaning it is given additional resources including increased testing.
Some areas previously subject to local lockdown restrictions, including Leicester, parts of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Lancashire will see them relaxed next week.
However, lockdown restrictions were eased from September 2 in Burnley, Hyndburn, Stockport and parts of Calderdale as well as Kirklees and Bradford, as originally planned by the government.
Social gatherings with other households are now permitted in homes, gardens, pubs or restaurants, according to new government advice.
But Bolton and Trafford in Greater Manchester saw no lifting of restrictions – as councils insist that infections remain too high.
Which cities are on the watch list?
The Government's lockdown watchlist was first published on April 23.
Leeds, Middlesbrough, Corby, Kettering and South Tyneside were added to the government's coronavirus watchlist in early September.
All cities saw a spike in coronavirus cases.
In Leeds, the Covid-19 case rate is now 32.4 per 100,000 people, with council bosses blaming young people for spreading the virus to different parts of the city.
The Government's lockdown watchlist was first published on April 23 and was last updated on September 4.
3. Blackburn with Darwen
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