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Sandwell links probed as Birmingham virus cases rise

By Peter Madeley | Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

Health bosses say they are concerned about a spike in coronavirus cases in Birmingham – some of which are linked to fresh outbreaks in Sandwell.

The number of positive Covid-19 tests in the second city rose to 23.6 per 100,000 in the seven days to August 10, according to the latest figures, with 269 new cases recorded.

A West Midlands Combined Authority briefing on the region's handling of the pandemic heard that the increase in positive tests may be linked to three recent outbreaks in Sandwell, which has a region-high rate of 24.7 cases per 100,000.

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Clive Wright, a regional convener for the NHS, said that cases in Birmingham had "steadily risen". "We are now concerned about this, and are reviewing the situation daily," he added.

"We have found through contact tracing, some transmission linked to the Sandwell outbreaks, but this doesn't explain the incidents of the virus right across the city overall.

"It does not appear to be particular sources of contamination, or connections between those testing positive.

"It looks as though a combination of people socialising and not maintaining social distancing at perhaps hospitality settings or other gatherings of people, may be the underlying problem."

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Sandwell saw 81 new virus cases in the seven days to August 10.

Of the three new outbreaks, two were said to be "business based", which health chiefs are examining to see if they are linked to the outbreak at CBS Packaging in West Bromwich.

The other was linked to a barbecue at The Soho Foundry Tavern in Smethwick on August 2, which led to three people testing positive and 70 others asked to self-isolate until August 16 as a precaution.

Mr Wright said: "There are three new outbreaks in Sandwell, but do to the actions of the council, Public Health England and partners, these are all now being brought under control.

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"We think it may be causing part, if not whole of the increase in numbers in Birmingham. They are small outbreaks connecting businesses, with the obvious ripple effect when people go from a business to a pub setting or into their homes."

The briefing was also told that Sandwell now has an 80 per cent success rate of contacts being traced, up from 60 per cent a fortnight ago.

It is not known how many of the people who were at the Soho Foundry have been contacted.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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