Covid fight ramped up - as chiefs warn Christmas in Tier 3 was now 'highly likely'

The region’s Covid fight will be ramped up next week – as council chiefs warned Christmas in Tier 3 was now “highly likely”.

Some GPs will start administering vaccines to priority patients from Monday, while Ministers have given the green light for councils to scale up mass testing across the Black Country, Staffordshire and Birmingham.

However, the region is likely to remain under the strictest lockdown restrictions until January at the earliest, after health chiefs warned falling case numbers had started to level off.

It came as Ministers announced that self-isolation for contacts of people with the virus will be reduced from 14 to 10 days, from Monday.

NHS England said University Hospitals Birmingham will be the latest trust to start vaccinations in the coming days, with jabs given to people aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers.

To date, vaccinations have been given from Walsall Manor Hospital and Royal Stoke University Hospital, but GPs in Wolverhampton have been put on standby to start delivery, with the first jabs due to be administered next week.

New rapid testing centres for people without symptoms are due to open, including a site at Fallings Park Fire Station on December 16, and on December 18 at Jamia Masjid Bilal Mosque, in New Hampton Road West.

Meanwhile, the Government is preparing to review the current tiered system of restrictions, although the region is unlikely to see a drop down from the top tier until the new year.

Clive Wright, the Covid-19 regional convener for the West Midlands, said despite falling case numbers the rate of reduction was “slowing”.

The Covid case rate for the whole of the West Midlands. Data: coronavirus.data.gov.uk

He said some areas had seen worrying increases in cases for the over-60s and that hospital admissions were “high”.

“We have made good progress across the region and the case rates have come down, but they are still high by comparison with other regions,” he added.

Council leaders said it was hard to envisage a drop down to Tier 2 next week, and also warned of a spike in cases in the new year due to restrictions being relaxed for five days over Christmas.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said: “It is highly likely we will be in Tier 3 until the new year and I’m not adverse to that because this virus is still taking a toll on people’s lives.

The Covid case rate for Staffordshire. Data: coronavirus.data.gov.uk

"We have got to get the message out to the community that getting together for Christmas could be the last one some people will see.”

Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We are still pushing the case, but it is doubtful that the Government will make any changes to Birmingham and the Black Country next week.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has called for more financial support from the Government for businesses impacted by Tier 3 restrictions.Measures will be announced on Wednesday and put before MPs the following day, with any new restrictions coming into force on December 19.

The Office for National Statistics said the month-long national lockdown, which ended on December 5, had helped to drastically reduce case numbers.

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