Sandwell added to coronavirus watch list as cases surge in West Bromwich

Sandwell has been added to the national coronavirus "watch list" as cases in the borough continue to rise, with a particular surge in West Bromwich.

Public Health England, the national body monitoring coronavirus across the country, named Sandwell as an “area of concern” in a document published on Friday as the first coronavirus death for 20 days was confirmed at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

Speaking at a Sandwell Council emergency committee meeting, council chief executive David Stevens issued urgent advice to people living in the borough to try and avoid a local lockdown.

Residents in Sandwell are being strongly advised not to go inside other people's homes and anyone who has been shielding has been told to continue doing so indefinitely despite national shielding guidelines easing this weekend.

Latest rates of infection in the region:

The rate of new cases per 100,000 people for the seven days to July 28.

Thee figures show the rate of new cases per 100,000 people for the seven days to July 28 with the number of new cases in that period in brackets, followed by equivalent figure for the previous seven days to July 21.

Data for the most recent three days has been excluded as it is incomplete and likely to be revised.

  • Sandwell 26.0 (85) v 27.2 (89)

  • Wolverhampton 13.0 (34) v 10.7 (28)

  • Birmingham 13.0 (148) v 13.2 (151)

  • Cannock Chase 8.0 (8) v 7.0 (7)

  • Lichfield 6.7 (7) v 5.8 (6)

  • Walsall 6.7 (19) v 9.9 (28)

  • Dudley 5.3 (17) v 1.9 (6)

  • South Staffordshire 5.4 (6) v 3.6 (4)

  • Stafford 6.6 (9) v 0.0 (0)

Local lockdown measures have already been introduced in parts of the north west of England and West Yorkshire, banning people from different households meeting indoors or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.

And the Prime Minister has postponed the further of easing of lockdown measures, warning that the country “cannot be complacent” amid a general rise in the prevalence of coronavirus in the community.

Measures due to be lifted on Saturday, including allowing small wedding receptions and reopening bowling alleys and casinos, have been postponed for at least two weeks.

Anyone in the UK who is displaying coronavirus symptoms must now self-isolate for 10 days and book a test.

Surge in West Bromwich

Sandwell's director of public health, Dr Lisa McNally, told the committee meeting that 85 positive Covid-19 cases had been confirmed in the borough in the last seven days, and it was 88 in the week before.

She said: "In a more recent development, West Bromwich has almost caught up with Smethwick. Over half the cases in Sandwell were Smethwick-based, but West Bromwich has now also seen a surge in cases."

Last week West Brom fans who celebrated the club's return to the Premier League outside The Hawthorns were urged to stay away from vulnerable people after social distancing was largely ignored during the promotion party.

At 28 new cases per 100,000 people, the rate of infection in Sandwell is higher than some parts of the north west which have been locked down, such as Manchester where the rate is 26.1, but much lower than the worst-affected areas such as Blackburn with Darwen and Leicester where the rate is 89.3 and 60.2 respectively.

Chief executive, Mr Stevens, said: "Sandwell as seen an alarming increase in the number of people contracting Covid-19. The latest data shows 85 confirmed cases in the week from July 21 to July 28 – that represents a 500 per cent increase in weekly cases for the same period in June.

Sandwell Council chief executive David Stevens

"Nationally, Sandwell now has the eighth highest rate of cases in England. The overall number of cases continues to rise rapidly, especially in Smethwick and West Bromwich areas.

"It is really important the council, partners and local people do everything we can to reduce the transmission rate and prevent the spread of this disease.

"Because of the high number of cases it is likely Sandwell will be added to the national watch list as an area of concern. This means we will have to deal our local plans for managing the outbreak to the Government containment team."

He also told the meeting that an emergency management team has also been set up between the council, public health and police.

Meanwhile businesses in Sandwell with coronavirus cases among staff have been warned they will be shut down unless they contact the borough's public health team for urgent testing.

McDonald's in Great Bridge temporarily closed after five staff members tested positive for the virus and CBS Packaging in West Bromwich also temporarily shut last week after one in three workers tested positive.

'Do not socialise in homes'

Sandwell Council's deputy leader, Councillor Maria Crompton, said: "The coronavirus situation in Sandwell is serious. To avoid a local lockdown we’re strongly advising those who are shielding in Sandwell to continue to do so after the national shielding period ends today while there is an increase in cases locally.”

Councillor Crompton reiterated that the advice was a strong recommendation from the council and public health professionals for everyone in Sandwell who is shielding.

“We know that people who are shielding are vulnerable to Covid-19 and they are more likely to become very ill or to die if they are infected. We know people are looking forward to going out again but we are really strongly advising people who are shielding to stay put for now and go out as little as possible. This applies to everyone in Sandwell who is shielding.

“We’re also asking people across Sandwell not to socialise with others inside each other’s homes.

“We know that Covid-19 spreads more easily indoors. So, we really strongly recommend that people do not go inside other people’s houses while the infection rate is increasing.

“We also need people to continue washing their hands regularly, wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport, to social distance from other people and – most importantly – to get a test and self-isolate if you have symptoms. We really need people to follow this important advice.

“We are seeing a significant increase in coronavirus cases and by working together we can do our best to avoid lockdown in Sandwell.”

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