TOUGH new lockdown restrictions are expected in Birmingham after the number of hospital patients with coronavirus doubled in the city in just one week.
Stricter measures are expected to be imposed later today, after two days of talks between Government, regional health and local authority leaders.
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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 in-patients at one time, of which about one in six were critically ill. We are seeing the same proportion now.”
According to NHS Digital data, the latest 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.
It 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.
Speaking yesterday of a potential lockdown in the area, 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.”
West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who had travelled to London to meet with officials, said earlier this week additional restrictions were “very, very likely”.
And Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said on Wednesday that lockdown-style measures were looking increasingly inevitable.
‘LINKED TO GATHERINGS’
The city’s director of public health Dr Justin Varney said the uptick in 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.
The city has already moved up the rungs of the Government’s Covid watchlist, which ranks local authority areas of concern by infection rate.
It was deemed an area in need of “enhanced support” last month, after recording a seven-day infection rate above 30 per 100,000 people.
There are concerns Birmingham’s neighbour, Solihull, will also see new restrictions imposed with the latest infection rate for the week ending September 8 standing at 62.8.