West Midlands residents must work together to keep COVID-19 rates down in the region

Thursday, 22nd October 2020

WITH the introduction of the national three-tier system, Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Solihull have been placed in Tier 2 – with a Local Covid Alert Level of High.

Today (Thursday) it has also been announced that Stoke-on-Trent and Coventry is also to move into the High alert level as from 0001 BST on Saturday 24 October.

In addition, Staffordshire County Council has also issued a warning to residents of the County that we may all move into tier 2, should something not be done.

Tier 2 means that in those areas:

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • People must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space.
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.

The most recent ONS data shows that around 336,500 people had the virus in the week from 2-8 October; about 1 in every 160 people. Hospital admissions for the virus are rising in the region, as are intensive care admissions.

While the epidemic re-started in younger adult age groups in the last few weeks, there is clear evidence of gradual spread into older age groups in the worst affected areas.

People tested positive in the West Midlands region
Number of people with at least one lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, by specimen date. Individuals tested positive more than once are only counted once, on the date of their first positive test.

The number of people with at least one lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, by specimen date. Individuals tested positive more than once are only counted once, on the date of their first positive test.

Sadly, increases in deaths will continue in coming weeks, with well over 800 UK lives lost over the last week. The good news is that we are much more certain now that children are usually not badly affected by COVID-19.

The R rate for the UK is between 1.3 – 1.5, so on average, for every 10 people infected, 13 to 15 people will be infected by onward transmission.

Every NHS region in England has an R well above 1.0, suggesting widespread transmission across the country. In the West Midlands region, there were 1,105.4 cases per 100,000 of population as of today (21 October). Scientists estimate the doubling time in the UK for new infections is between 8 and 16 days and is even faster in some areas.

Dr Helen Carter, Deputy Regional Director with Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands, said:

“We’ve been in the grip of this pandemic for the last six months and we know people are getting tired of all the changes they’re having to make in their daily lives, but we’re now at a tipping point similar to March and we have to act to prevent history repeating itself.

“We’re in this for the long haul, and the more people that ignore the guidance to wear face coverings in enclosed public places, who don’t observe social distancing, don’t wash and sanitise their hands regularly, and don’t observe the local restrictions in place – the worse things will become, the more restrictions will be put in place in the West Midlands, and more people will die across the region.

“As well as an increase in cases and deaths, we’re also seeing rising hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care, due to COVID. In the last month, we have seen large increases in younger people getting the virus, particularly in student populations.

“However, now the numbers of cases in people over the age of 60 are rising rapidly in the West Midlands. It is important that everyone things ‘hands, face, space’ and sticks to the government guidance for their area.

“For the most part, young people have mild symptoms, but it’s their parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents who are in danger of becoming seriously ill with this virus. So, even if you’re not worried for yourself – think of those other people, who are older, have long-term health conditions, and who might not survive COVID-19. We can only fight this virus together, please play your part.”

We must all continue to follow the guidance:
  • Wash your hands more than you normally would and thoroughly
  • Wear a face-covering indoors where social distancing may be difficult and where you will be with people you do not normally meet
  • Keep a distance of 2 metres where possible
  • If you are asked to self-isolate then do so, do not go out for any reason
  • If you have symptoms get a test
  • Work from home where you can
  • Follow the rule of 6 and all restrictions in your area

Dr Helen Carter added:

“Winter is always a difficult time for our NHS, but this year, along with facing flu season and the added pressures on health that the cold weather brings, we are also in the midst of a severe pandemic. As health professionals, we’re doing everything we can to prepare, but we have to be realistic, so we need everyone’s help to support us through this next challenge.

“We are also looking at the indirect harms caused by COVID-19; keeping diagnostic services going, treatment for cancer patients, and providing mental health support. Importantly, we need people to come forward for that care when they need it – don’t let the fear of coronavirus put you off getting essential tests and treatments.

“Everyone has to take responsibility for their own health, that of their family and friends, but also for their wider communities. We can get through this pandemic, but we all have to work together and look after each other.”