Coronavirus cases linked to Stone pub tracked across Staffordshire
Sixteen cases of coronavirus have now been linked to a Staffordshire pub after 650 people were tested in the area in two days.
The cases are spread across the county with 11 directly linked to the Crown and Anchor pub in Stone and five more from secondary transmissions.
The outbreak of Covid-19 is believed to have been caused by a busy weekend at the pub which saw tightly-packed crowds gather in the beer garden in contravention of social distancing guidelines.
WATCH: Video shows packed pub beer garden
Drinkers who were at the venue on July 16, 17 and 18 – or anyone who has been in close contact with someone who went to the pub on those days – have been urged to book an appointment at the emergency test centre operating on the Crown Street car park, until Sunday.
A private party involving some Crown and Anchor customers has been blamed for the spike in cases and the pub has been closed since last week.
However localised restrictions like those introduced in parts of the north west and west Yorkshire are not yet being considered.
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Dr Richard Harling, Staffordshire County Council‘s director of health and care, said: “I think we can expect some more positive cases as we test large numbers of people. The question is how many – whether it is just a handful or significantly more than that.
“In terms of restrictions, we’re not considering any at the moment. It’s worth bearing in mind the cases are from all over Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent – we have got people from quite a long way afield.
“Preventing any further transmission by those individuals wouldn’t necessarily involve any restrictions in Stone – we may need some kind of wider intervention. I don’t think we will know until we get the results back and understand the scale of what we are looking at.
“We do have some new powers to enforce restrictions on premises, places and events but it is quite a long way from the lockdown we have seen nationally at the end of March.
“If things get really bad in any particular place or area there is the option for the Government to step in and impose harsher restrictions but I think that is probably unlikely. If we did have to put into place any additional restrictions I don’t think it would quite be a lockdown.”
Of the 16 confirmed cases, five are from the Stone area, with three from elsewhere in the Stafford borough, three from Stoke-on-Trent, three from the Staffordshire Moorlands and two from Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Five pubs in Stone are currently closed in response to the outbreak and The Lounge has delayed its planned reopening.
Dr Harling added: “If you have got premises that cannot be absolutely confident they can maintain social distancing it is a sensible thing for them to close during this current heightened risk of infection – particularly among the 18 to 21-year-old demographic at the pub on that evening.
“Generally the feedback is people are pretty anxious about the whole thing and have a heightened sensitivity to following the guidance. We certainly haven’t had any reports of breaches of social distancing – my feeling is people are being pretty alert and aware at this time, given the current situation.”
The Red Lion, on Stone High Street, is one of the pubs which will be closed this weekend.
Licensee Tanya Moran said: “The health and safety of the public and our customers and staff is our number one priority and we have robust health and safety measures in place.
“However, given the rise of Covid-19 cases locally, we have taken the decision to temporarily close. This is a voluntary decision and a precautionary measure – we have had no reported Covid cases at the pub.
“We are speaking to the local health authorities and look forward to welcoming customers back once we feel it is safe to do so.”
The temporary testing site at the Crown Street car park, Stone, is open on Saturday and Sunday between 10.30am and 3.30pm but appointments must be booked online at gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
People can also use that website to book an appointment at testing sites at the Bet 365 Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent or at Beaconside in Stafford.
Of the 498 tests carried out in Stone on Wednesday, 130 were negative and results from 368 are outstanding.
Councillor Johnny McMahon, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing, said: “We are grateful for everyone’s efforts in containing the spread of coronavirus and would urge people to work together and maintain their vigilance.”
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