Birmingham City Council responds after city placed on national coronavirus “watch list”
Birmingham City Council has responded after it was announced the city has been placed on the national COVID-19 “watch list” following a spike in coronavirus cases.
Local leaders have announced a commitment to monitoring health and safety developments in the city following Birmingham being added to this week’s government watch list as an ‘area of enhanced support’.
According to today’s statement from the government’s Department of Health and Social Care:
“Cases of COVID-19 are rising quickly in Birmingham, with 30.2 cases per 100,000 and the percentage of people testing positive up to 4.3%. Over half of cases in the last week have been within the 18 to 34 age demographic.
“Local leaders and the government have therefore agreed initially to make Birmingham an ‘area of enhanced support’, meaning the area will benefit from additional testing, locally led contact tracing and targeted community engagement.
“Further discussions with local leaders are taking place to understand what additional measures should be taken to help manage the outbreak. The Secretary of State will hold a meeting with local council leaders and the Mayor of the West Midlands today to discuss urgent next steps.”
In response, Leader of Birmingham City Council Cllr Ian Ward said: “As we have previously said, this announcement was expected following rising coronavirus case numbers here in Birmingham. We are working with our partners locally and at a government level to shape plans and secure the resources such as extra testing that we need that will get the infection rate down.
“We will make announcements as soon as possible about what this means for the people of the city. If our previous warnings to keep doing the basics haven’t been enough, this has to be the wake-up call for everyone. Wash your hands, wear face coverings wherever possible, keep 2m apart from others and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.”
What does this mean for Birmingham?
The inclusion of Birmingham on the government’s watchlist does not mean the city is in lockdown, but rather it is an “Area of Enhanced Support”.
The three definitions for the national watchlist are: ‘Areas of Concern’, ‘Areas of Enhanced Support’, and ‘Areas of Intervention’.
For ‘areas of concern’, Upper Tier Local Authorities will work with partners, supported by regional PHE and NHS Test and Trace resource, to take additional actions to manage outbreaks and reduce community spread of the virus to more normal levels.
Actions taken may include additional targeted testing at high risk areas or groups, for example care homes, enhanced communications around the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene and other preventative measures, and more detailed epidemiological work to understand where clusters of the virus are occurring so that appropriate action can be taken.
On top of this, areas deemed for ‘enhanced support’ will be provided with increased national support, capacity and oversight, including additional resources deployed to augment the local teams where this is necessary.
Actions taken may include significant additional widespread testing deployed to the Upper Tier Local Authorities, national support for local recommendations put in place to manage outbreaks, and detailed engagement with high risk groups and sectors to help increase the effectiveness of testing and tracing in these areas.
In addition, ‘Areas of intervention’ are defined where there is divergence from the lockdown measures in place in the rest of England because of the significance of the spread of COVID-19.
There are a range of non-pharmaceutical interventions available to local and national leaders, from extensive communications, expanded testing, to restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
If despite these measures, the number of coronavirus cases in Birmingham continue to rise, there is the possibility the city could be placed under a local lockdown.