Tougher West Midlands lockdown restrictions to last into New Year, MPs warn

The West Midlands is likely to be under tough lockdown restrictions into the New Year, MPs have warned.

Dudley and Staffordshire are set to be moved into the Tier 2 'high risk' category
Dudley and Staffordshire are set to be moved into the Tier 2 'high risk' category

The Government will today announce that Dudley and Staffordshire are to join the other three Black Country boroughs, Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent under Tier 2 restrictions after rising Covid cases.

And talks are set to take place over putting the region into the "very high" alert level Tier 3 – which would see pubs that do not serve substantial meals forced to close, as well as extra restrictions on households mixing.

It came as West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson warned that officers could break up Christmas dinners that breach Covid lockdown rules.

The daily number of coronavirus deaths at hospitals in the Black Country, Birmingham and Staffordshire by date of death, as of October 28. Data: NHS England

MPs and council leaders across the region had warned that tighter measures were inevitable, after infection rates across the region surged past 200 cases per 100,000 population and hospital admissions rose.

They warned that with coronavirus cases continuing to rise, higher level restrictions were likely to be in place into the New Year

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, said: "When the 'R' rate begins to fall and eventually becomes less than one so that infection rates drop, I will then intercede - if necessary - with the Secretary of State to lower the alert level back to Tier 1.

"I fear that this may not begin to happen until after Christmas, and probably not until February or March."

'Work together to defeat virus'

Under Tier 2 restrictions people are banned from meeting indoors with others who they do not live with, including in private homes, pubs or restaurants.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi said he was disappointed about the borough's move into Tier 2, but that the move was necessary as it was clear that the rise in coronavirus transmission "has not being contained through existing local measures".

He praised people in Dudley who had adhered to lockdown measures, and added: "We can only defeat this virus if we work together and strictly adhere to guidance."

More Covid-19 coverage:

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said he hoped the borough was given sufficient time in Tier 2 to see if the added restrictions succeeded in bringing down infection rates.

"I am saying, and I believe all the leaders of the West Midlands are saying including the Mayor Andy Street, give us the time, let’s see if Tier 2 works.

"If you don’t give these tiers time to work then what is the point of having that system anyway?"

Councillor Patrick Harley, the leader of Dudley Council

Councillor Doug Pullen, the leader of Lichfield District Council, urged people to "stick to the rules" to try and reduce infection rates. He also vowed to support local businesses impacted by the new rules.

"I still believe that together we can successfully tackle the spread of the virus across our district," he said.

Bill Etheridge, UKIP's economic spokesman, urged local leaders to reject tougher restrictions, which he described as "terrible news for the local economy".

The former MEP and Dudley councillor, said: "My great fear is that this is a stepping stone for the whole region to be locked into Tier 3 and an economic catastrophe it will take years to recover from.

"Our future as a region is at stake."

Blue Christmas?

Meanwhile Mr Jamieson has called for clarity over lockdown plans for the festive period, saying West Midlands Police would break up family gatherings that failed to comply with restrictions.

He told the Express & Star the force's focus would be on "large and flagrant breaches of the rules".

"Unless the Government says otherwise the police will continue with their current approach," he added. "After all the virus won’t be aware of the date.

"It would be very helpful for the Government to set out clear guidance for the Christmas period to avoid any doubt, the current mixed messaging risks undermining public confidence.

"Although based on the Government’s current timeliness I worry that the Christmas guidance may not actually arrive until Boxing Day."

Mr Jamieson's comments have been slammed by leading human rights lawyer Adam Wagner, who said: "The police have no power of entry under the Tier 2 (or 1 and 3) regulations.

"They would have to be invited into homes to exercise their power to disperse gatherings - or have a warrant."

Environment Secretary George Eustice said it was "far too early" to set out guidelines about Christmas.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News