After new lockdown rules were brought into play in large parts of northern England, council leaders and public health bosses have said widespread testing is now more important than ever to reduce the prospect of similar action in the region.
Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils are urging people who have Covid-19 symptoms or who have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive to get tested.
The seven local authorities also reiterated the importance of businesses contacting Public Health England as a case is identified – either confirmed or suspected – in a staff or customer.
Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward, said: “As we have seen with Leicester and now the north of England, this pandemic is far from over and there’s no room for complacency.
“Testing is absolutely essential if we are going to limit the spread of the virus across the West Midlands and save lives and every single one of us can play a part.
“Rates of testing have dropped over the last week in the West Midlands and it is essential that anyone with symptoms, however mild, rings 119 or goes on the NHS website to book a test.
“We are working with the Department of Health to expand the number of testing sites across the region and increase opportunities for walk-through testing as well.
“By testing you get the reassurance of knowing if you have Covid-19 or not and you get the right advice to keep you and your family safe.
“We are also seeing across the region that workplaces are becoming sources of outbreaks and spread, but if public health are contacted quickly when managers find out about the first suspected or confirmed case then the right advice can be given and we can control things quickly.
“In most cases this also means the business doesn’t need to close and things can be controlled.
“Staying silent means the virus spreads, putting staff and customers at risk, and where businesses haven’t stepped up and reached out for help quickly there have been outbreaks that have grown and impacted on the wider community.”
Councillor Ward added: “This is in everyone’s interests and it is not just about diagnosing individual cases, it’s about understanding how widely the virus has spread.
“We can identify hotspots and act to contain and control the virus.
“Individuals and businesses can all play a vital role and it is essential that we all follow Public Health England’s (PHE) advice on reporting cases promptly.”
It comes as residents in Sandwell have been issued urgent advice in an attempt to avoid a local lockdown after being put on PHE’s ‘watchlist’.
Sandwell Council’s emergency committee meet on Friday to discuss the rise in Covid-19 cases in the borough. Residents who had been shielding are being strongly advised to continue doing so for their own safety, while all residents are being strongly advised not to go inside the homes of others.