Leave us alone – region's leaders united in opposition to planned Covid lockdown measures

Planned new lockdown restrictions for the region aimed at controlling the second wave of the coronavirus were today branded “unfair and unwanted”.

Political leaders across the region are united against new lockdown restrictions for the whole West Midlands
Political leaders across the region are united against new lockdown restrictions for the whole West Midlands

The Government is expected to announce fresh curbs on freedoms on Monday, with the West Midlands on the second level of a new three-tier system.

It will mean a ban on households mixing in indoor settings – including pubs and restaurants – and in private homes or gardens, with people fined up to £6,400 if they breach the restrictions.

Political leaders across the West Midlands today spoke out against the plans, describing them as using “a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

They urged ministers to “leave us alone” and questioned why restrictions were being proposed for areas where case numbers were relatively small.

Infection rates across the region vary, but are far lower than in parts of the North East and North West, which are set for level three restrictions – meaning the closure of pubs and restaurants.

Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Birmingham and Solihull are all currently under extra restrictions banning people from different households from mixing indoors.

The Labour leader of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging him to keep Covid-19 restrictions as they are.

A mobile coronavirus testing unit has opened at the South Staffordshire Council building, off Wolverhampton Road, in Codsall

He said political leaders across the seven areas of the West Midlands Combined Authority had come together to oppose the new measures, saying: “What the Government is planning next week is for us to be lumped in with the rest of the West Midlands in the second category, which would put us only one step away from shutting down the whole hospitality sector.

"Myself and the other six leaders are are fighting every day against this because we are nowhere near what the North East and North West are experiencing. It is a category that is unwanted, and one we don’t deserve to be in.”

Stuart Anderson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, said: “As a city we are unified in the view that we don’t want these new measures, as we believe they are unfair and won’t make a difference.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, the Conservative leader of Dudley Council, said: “Where local authorities have some control of the virus, leave them alone to get on with it.”

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said: “The figures from Public Health England show that only three or four per cent of infections are in restaurants and pubs.

"This is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Social distancing and PPE are now a regular part of shopping

In Wolverhampton the rate in the seven days up to October 5 was 68 per 100,000 people after 179 new infections. It was 69 in Dudley (222 infections), 111.1 in Sandwell (365) and 119.4 in Walsall (341).

Birmingham has the region’s highest rate at 150.8 (1,722), while in Staffordshire the rate was 80.6 (709).

The infection rate is now above 100 per 100,000 people in around half of the country, while in parts of the North East and North West the rate is above 500.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, said following talks with Health Secretary Matt Hancock he had been reassured any new measures would not be region-wide.

“I strongly believe any new lockdown should not apply to the entire West Midlands,” he said. “Lichfield and most of Staffordshire have relatively few infections.

"Like all areas, infections are on the rise, but there is no comparison with places like Birmingham and Sandwell.

Play areas often looked abandoned until restrictions were eased

"It would be heavy handed for restrictions to apply throughout the whole area.

"However, I have spoken to Matt Hancock and he has assured me any lockdown or other controls will be as local as possible and will not be region-wide.

“This is a great relief as it would have been too broad a brush approach to include Lichfield and Burntwood.”

In Stafford the infection rate in the seven days up to October 4 was 106.4 per 100,000 people after 146 new infections. It was 81.1 in Lichfield (85 infections), 82.7 in South Staffordshire (93) and 59.5 in Cannock Chase (60).

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