Hospital outbreak partly to blame as Walsall infection rate passes Wolverhampton

Part of a recent rise in coronavirus cases in Walsall is a result of an outbreak at the hospital, a health boss has said.

The borough's Covid-19 infection rate in the week to September 21 was 69.5 cases per 100,000 people, which is higher than Wolverhampton's was last Friday when new restrictions were announced.

But Clive Wright, Covid-19 Regional Convenor for West Midlands, told the West Midlands Combined Authority briefing that a new framework will be coming into force next week, with new thresholds.

He said: "As we move forward the whole scheme of where councils sit in terms of intervention will change, so we expect a new framework next week, and that will of course have new thresholds recognising that there is an increase in infection up and down the country.

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"In the case of Walsall however, if you were looking at the epidemiology over the last few days, it's been a sharp increase over a few days, some of that increase is because of an outbreak in the acute hospital in Walsall which we know about and has been under control, so context is always important, not just the number, but in this particular instance it's a matter of timing.

"If that had have happened a few days earlier we would've been in discussions throughout the week with the secretary of state and colleagues down in London about where Walsall sits in the framework.

"Walsall is being watched for next week, but there are no measures or actions or legislation that apply this week."

Mr Wright also said it is not certain if the new framework will affect measures in Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull and Wolverhampton, but he added "I don't imagine it will".

Under the local lockdown rules, residents in the borough are banned from mixing with people they don't live with in private homes or gardens.

Mr Wright also said the framework is being discussed, but that all local authorities will be in 'tier one', then 'tier two' when they reach 50 cases in 100,000, which he said most of the local council areas will be in, and 'tier three' would be above 200 in 100,000, but he said they will not know for sure until next week.

Military support

Meanwhile Birmingham City Council is in discussions with the military over extra help with the 'drop and collect' service, and Sandwell's interim leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said she would welcome the same in Sandwell.

Councillor Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "We have been in talks with the military about them giving us extra capacity for drop and collect, it's very much in an extra capacity feet on the ground sense, and not in a 'they are the army doing army things' sense."

Councillor Crompton added: "I think here we've got a lot of our staff investing a lot of our time and effort into trying to keep people safe, and if we can get some help from elsewhere, then I would welcome that."

Councillor Crompton, who is under investigation by the Labour Party for unknown reasons, also said people "jigging about in the pub" after drinking could be a reason for a rise in cases in the area.

She said: "Cases are still rising in Sandwell, despite all the measures that we're taking, but they're rising all over the place, it's not just Sandwell, they're rising everywhere, and that's why I'm trying to get the message over to people to take the measures that I'm suggesting as well as the Government's message, which is that you need to keep the face covering on when you go out.

"I've seen on Facebook only a couple of days ago these people all waiting to catch a bus in their little face coverings, and then two hours later I see them on Facebook again dancing and jigging about in the pub, all mingling together, people can't get past, and a little bit of alcohol seems to take away all the inhibitions and they just forget about social distancing and face coverings and all that, so that is the difficulty, and that concerns me greatly."

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