Health

More local lockdowns are 'just DAYS away' PHE sources claim

Leicester-style localised lockdowns are ‘just days away’ from being imposed after dozens of towns and cities saw cases surge in the past week, public health officials revealed today.

Bradford, Doncaster and Barnsley are said to be at the top of the Government’s list of potential Covid hotspots as the virus continues to run rampant in Yorkshire.

Former Government scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said these towns and cities were ‘clearly of concern’ and suggested they could be next to roll back the draconian curbs. 

Parts of Kent, the North West of England and more than a dozen London boroughs are also being kept under review after clusters of cases in the last week.  

Public Health England and Department of Health sources told Sky News they had earmarked 36 Covid hospots in England where lockdowns could be ‘just days away’. 

But the full extent of local infection rates is still unclear because of a huge gap in the data given out to the public and what is known inside the Government.

The Government does not disclose coronavirus cases found through ‘Pillar 2’ testing, which is swab tests done on members of the public.  

Only the results of hospital patients and healthcare staff tested for the virus are being made public, despite accounting for just a fraction of overall cases.  

Even local councils and public health officials aren’t being given the information and are now battling with the Government to find out what’s happening in their areas.

It also emerged today that one in seven children in Leicester have tested positive for Covid-19 – treble the average rate across all of England.

Leicester was forced to lock down once again after the city of 330,000 accounted for 10 per cent of the 6,000 positive cases in the country last week.  

Public Health England data shows Leicester's infection rate is twice as high as the second-worst-hit city of Bradford

Public Health England data shows Leicester’s infection rate is twice as high as the second-worst-hit city of Bradford

Former Government scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said Bradford and Doncaster were 'clearly of concern' because the Yorkshire cities have some of the highest numbers of cases per capita in the country

Former Government scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said Bradford and Doncaster were ‘clearly of concern’ because the Yorkshire cities have some of the highest numbers of cases per capita in the country

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning: ‘Absolutely, it’s inevitable we will [see more lockdowns]. We’re relaxing lockdown rules and that means that contacts in the population are going up. 

‘That’s a variable process that will vary from place to place and that means there will be some places where there are too many contacts and we get clusters of transmissions what’s critically important is that we detect those early and adopt the measures necessary to locally reduce transmission again.’

On whether Bradford and Doncaster could be next to lock down, Professor Ferguson said: ‘Those are areas where, not as high as Leicester, but they have some of the highest number of cases per 100,000 of the population.  

Data compiled by Public Health England (PHE) shows Havering and Wiltshire have seen the biggest week-on-week increases in confirmed Covid-19 infections (300 per cent). In comparison, Leicester has recorded a 5 per cent jump in cases – going from 39 cases registered between June 13-19 to 41 in the following seven-day spell

Data compiled by Public Health England (PHE) shows Havering and Wiltshire have seen the biggest week-on-week increases in confirmed Covid-19 infections (300 per cent). In comparison, Leicester has recorded a 5 per cent jump in cases – going from 39 cases registered between June 13-19 to 41 in the following seven-day spell

Pictured: The lockdown zone in Leicester, which has left some Britons in lockdown while their neighbours are not

The 36 ‘at-risk’ areas in England

Havering 

Wiltshire 

Wandsworth 

Gloucestershire 

Ealing 

Hammersmith and Fulham 

Doncaster 

Plymouth

Barking and Dagenham 

Westminster 

Milton Keynes 

Wakefield 

Haringey 

Medway 

Hounslow 

Brent 

Harrow 

Kensington and Chelsea 

Slough

Suffolk 

Redbridge 

Sandwell 

Enfield 

Tower Hamlets 

York 

Sunderland 

Wigan 

Windsor and Maidenhead 

Leicester 

Gateshead 

Isle of Wight 

Richmond upon Thames

Portsmouth 

Redcar and Cleveland 

Derbyshire 

Walsall 

In Scotland,  Dumfries & Galloway is said to be experiencing a surge in cases.

‘They’re clearly of concern. I think there are a set of measures being introduced in those areas to track down transmissions but whether we need more measures will depend on whether we can pull case numbers down.

‘A second national wave is an agglomeration of small outbreaks like the Leicester one merged together across the country that’s exactly what we want to avoid by snuffing out those small outbreaks when they are just sparks, when we’re not seeing a national large increase in case numbers.’ 

Professor Ferguson said the UK was too slow to ramp up testing, which left the country playing catch up with the epidemic.

He added: ‘ I think without doubt we didn’t ramp up testing fast enough and therefore we were relatively blind in late February, early March about truly how much infection was happening in the community in this country brought in from Spain and Italy and other countries. 

‘It was only once we started hospital surveillance we got a good handle on that and from that point onwards we acted very quickly, it was just a little too late.

‘We were one of the most heavily seeded countries with infection in Europe, while we introduced lockdown measures around the same time as European countries, a little later than some, the epidemic was more progressed.

‘Per 100,000 of the population yes we’re one of the worst affected European countries. I would say before we make international comparisons, just bear in mind that we’re still very early into this pandemic.

‘Lessons can be learned from what happened in the UK up till now but I would prefer to focus on the next six months right before looking back in earnest.’ 

Other scientists and public health officials have warned of more localised lockdowns after it emerged parts of Kent, London and Scotland are still experiencing clusters of the virus. 

Infections have risen in the Medway, the West London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing, and Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland.

Figures show these areas experienced an increase of 10 or more weekly infections between June 18 and June 25. 

These areas will be kept under review because, now that lockdown has been eased, these cases are more likely to pass the virus onto others. 

Professor Deenan Pillay, a virologist at Universtiy College London, told the Guardian: ‘I am expecting there to be a number of Leicesters. The base level of infections going on in the UK is still much higher than it was in other countries in Europe when they started to release their lockdowns,’ he added.

Jeanelle de Gruchy, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, told the newspaper: ‘We need to be cautious on easing lockdown because we are not out of the woods yet. Leicester is a sobering example of that. It should make us cautious about being too gung-ho in easing different measures.’

Data shows how Leicester's coronavirus outbreak has grown over time. The numbers compiled for England only include pillar one swab tests, which officials say are only given to patients with a medical need or key workers

Data shows how Leicester’s coronavirus outbreak has grown over time. The numbers compiled for England only include pillar one swab tests, which officials say are only given to patients with a medical need or key workers

How a large BAME population, poverty and crowded households may have contributed to Leicester’s spike in cases 

Government officials, local politicians and scientists are divided over whether Leicester is experiencing a real surge in cases or whether better testing is simply finding more of them where it wasn’t before.

It is also not clear whether there are any characteristics of Leicester which make it more likely to see a surge in cases, or if random chance has meant the first ‘second wave’ is happening there. Experts say many of the risk factors in Leicester are the same in all major cities in England.

The mayor of the city, Sir Peter Soulsby, said on BBC Radio 4 this morning that a report sent to him by the Government ‘actually acknowledges that it’s very likely that the increase in number of positives identified is a result of increased testing, and that actually there’s perhaps nothing of any great significance in those results.’

Director of Public Health for the city, Ivan Browne, said: ‘Interestingly it [the surge in cases] is very much around the younger, working age population and predominantly towards the east part of our city. We started to see this level through our testing programme.

‘Young people work in many industries across the city so at this stage what we’re trying to do is gather as much epidemiological information as we can to really try and get underneath and have an understanding. I don’t think at the moment that we are seeing a single source or a single smoking gun on this’.

It was always likely that surges in cases would be seen in cities first. There are more people, raising the risk, and those people are more likely to live in densely populated areas and come into contact with strangers on a regular basis.

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There will be differences in the ease with which people can maintain physical distance between densely populated areas and rural environments – so it isn’t surprising to me that we may see localised flare-ups, which in turn may need suppressing through delayed easing or temporary re-introduction of some constraints on some movements and activities.’ 

Leicester also has high levels of deprivation, which affects people’s lives in ways that put them at risk of catching the virus. 

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘In deprived areas people are more likely to have to go to work, less likely to be able to work from home, and more likely to use public transport. They can’t distance themselves from others.’

The Samworth Brothers sandwich factory in the city reported over the weekend that it had diagnosed cases of Covid-19 among its staff.

Food processing factories are a higher transmission risk because cold environments allow the virus to survive for longer on hard surfaces and make people’s airways more susceptible to infection.

Dr Clarke added that the types of work people do may increase their risk.  

‘Blue collar cities are now at higher risk than places like London and Manchester which have more financial services,’ he added. 

The full extent of local infection rates is still unclear because the Government only includes pillar one swab tests, which are only given to patients with a medical need or key workers.

Positive results from pillar two tests – carried out by commercial partners – are added into the overall case toll but no geographical breakdown is currently given.

For example, government data shows the UK has officially recorded 311,965 Covid-19 cases since the crisis began to spiral out of control in February.

But PHE has only revealed the area-by-area data for 63 per cent of the infections – meaning the location of 115,000 confirmed cases is missing. 

When Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the Leicester lockdown this week, he revealed he had made the decision using the results from the community, suggesting the outbreak is much higher than the figures show. 

Government-released data shows Leicester has only recorded 1,056 cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began — a third of the figure obtained by LCC. It revealed only 366 new infections have been confirmed in May and June.

Data on the results of pillar one tests analysed by The Daily Telegraph shows Leicester last week recorded the second-highest amount of cases across England – behind only Kent (101).

However, the rate in Kent – the upper tier local authority with the most diagnosed cases (5,591) – has dropped 16 per cent week-on-week.

Ministers first warned last month that individual towns and cities could be put back on lockdown if they see coronavirus cases rise again once restrictions are relaxed.

Officials will carefully monitor the impact on specific areas and will tackle hot zones by introducing ‘local lockdowns’ where restrictions will be reimposed.

Nine of the 36 authorities where Covid-19 cases are rising, including Sunderland, Portsmouth and York, recorded none between June 13 and 19.

They all recorded either one or two cases the following week, hence why they were included in the list of areas where outbreaks appear to be growing.

Doncaster – a town in South Yorkshire – recorded the biggest actual spike in coronavirus cases over the two-week period, going from 11 to 32.

The London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham (seven to 18) and Ealing (five to 14) also witnessed big jumps in the actual numbers of cases.

Thirteen other London boroughs are also experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases, according to the analysis of the figures by The Telegraph.

Official figures do show the number of infections are dropping, however. The average number of lab-confirmed cases has dropped to 894 – the lowest since March.

It emerged today that one in seven children have tested positive for the virus in Leicester, according to The Telegraph.

Prevalence is now thought to be 15 per cent among under-18s in the East Midlands city – almost three times higher than the rest of England. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We have been working closely with our local partners, providing them with the resources and tools so that they can take swift action to deal with any new local spikes in infections.’ 

Government officials, local politicians and scientists are divided over whether Leicester is experiencing a real surge in cases or whether better testing is simply finding more of them where it wasn’t before.

It is also not clear whether there are any characteristics of Leicester which make it more likely to see a surge in cases, or if random chance has meant the first ‘second wave’ is happening there. Experts say many of the risk factors in Leicester are the same in all major cities in England.

The mayor of the city, Sir Peter Soulsby, said on BBC Radio 4 this morning that a report sent to him by the Government ‘actually acknowledges that it’s very likely that the increase in number of positives identified is a result of increased testing, and that actually there’s perhaps nothing of any great significance in those results.’

Director of Public Health for the city, Ivan Browne, said: ‘Interestingly it [the surge in cases] is very much around the younger, working age population and predominantly towards the east part of our city. We started to see this level through our testing programme.

‘Young people work in many industries across the city so at this stage what we’re trying to do is gather as much epidemiological information as we can to really try and get underneath and have an understanding. I don’t think at the moment that we are seeing a single source or a single smoking gun on this’.

It was always likely that surges in cases would be seen in cities first. There are more people, raising the risk, and those people are more likely to live in densely populated areas and come into contact with strangers on a regular basis.

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There will be differences in the ease with which people can maintain physical distance between densely populated areas and rural environments – so it isn’t surprising to me that we may see localised flare-ups, which in turn may need suppressing through delayed easing or temporary re-introduction of some constraints on some movements and activities.’ 

Leicester also has high levels of deprivation, which affects people’s lives in ways that put them at risk of catching the virus. 

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘In deprived areas people are more likely to have to go to work, less likely to be able to work from home, and more likely to use public transport. They can’t distance themselves from others.’

The Samworth Brothers sandwich factory in the city reported over the weekend that it had diagnosed cases of Covid-19 among its staff.

Food processing factories are a higher transmission risk because cold environments allow the virus to survive for longer on hard surfaces and make people’s airways more susceptible to infection.

Dr Clarke added that the types of work people do may increase their risk.  

‘Blue collar cities are now at higher risk than places like London and Manchester which have more financial services,’ he added. 

Police say they WILL stop drivers leaving Leicester after reveller tries to hire a coach to take friends from COVID-hit city for a night out in Nottingham when pubs open on Saturday 

Police have pledged to turn around vehicles and fine drivers trying to flee Leicester for drinking or shopping after the city was put under a fresh lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the city. 

Officers will carry out spot checks on vehicles leaving locked-down Leicester and could turn them around if their journey is not essential, it was revealed today, as confusion reigned because some areas in the city limits are in lockdown while neighbours are not.

Leicestershire Police is also threatening £100 fines amid growing concerns that residents may flee for the county’s open pubs, hair salons or other attractions while patrols will also break up mass gatherings in the city after they were partially blamed for a spike in coronavirus cases in June.

Yesterday Leicester City fan Colin Browning tweeted a callout for people to join him on a coach to Nottingham for a night in the pub for £15 including space on a 48-seater bus including ‘free hand sanitiser, masks and gloves’. It sold out on Tuesday but he reduced it to a minibus last night after admitting he had ‘gone over the top’.

It came after people booked minibuses and coaches to ferry them up to nearby Nottingham and Derby to drink on ‘Super Saturday’ this weekend – when the rest of England emerges from lockdown on July 4.     Nottinghamshire’s chief constable Craig Guildford says his officers are also ready to act if Leicester residents turn up for ‘shopping or a night out’ in Nottingham while British Transport Police will be checking those using trains between the two cities.   

Pictured: The lockdown zone in Leicester, which has left some Britons in lockdown while their neighbours are not

Patrols could also be increased in public spaces to enforce the guidelines but road blocks are considered over the top, the Times reported, as police in Leicestershire criticised the ‘drip-feeding’ of information from Whitehall to agencies on the ground and Matt Hancock insisted that the closure of shops would be enforced by law but there would be no travel ban.

Willy Bach, police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, criticised the lockdown process. ‘We were not even provided with a map of the [lockdown] area until well after the announcement. I have a great deal of sympathy with the agencies charged with delivery. They needed clarity from the start, and I am astonished that it is being drip-fed as the day progresses,’ he said.

Officers will stop cars, minibuses and coaches and break up large groups after it emerged that a large block party was held in Leicester last weekend.  

Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group (Nervtag), has said the public should brace themselves for other local coronavirus restrictions to return later in the year.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Unfortunately I think we should. We’ve seen the epidemic is focal, which is often the case, it’s not the same in all places. And we saw that London unfortunately led the way in the UK and now Leicester is unfortunately leading the way and we can expect more of that, so I think there will have to be local responses to local outbreaks.’

Dr Duncan Robertson, a data expert at Loughborough University’s School of Business and Economics, told MailOnline that Public Health England statistics show a  ‘cluster of outbreaks around Manchester’ while Doncaster has also seen a surge in cases and there are ongoing outbreaks in Kent, Wales and Scotland that are causing concern.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed lockdown measures will be extended in the East Midlands city for at least two weeks after a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, with non-essential shops closed again and schools shut from Thursday.  It will not be reviewed again until July 18, according to Government documents.

Leicester City Council and Public Health England issued a map on Tuesday detailing exactly which areas in Leicestershire will be subject to the lockdown, with the boundary extending to Birstall to the north of the city and Wigston to the south. 

Police check cars in York on March 26. Officers will perform similar checks to ensure locals are obeying the new locdkown in Leicester

Police check cars in York on March 26. Officers will perform similar checks to ensure locals are obeying the new locdkown in Leicester

Pictured: Where the border cuts across Leicester on Bowhill Grove, after Matt Hancock announced a local extension of lockdown

Pictured: Where the border cuts across Leicester on Bowhill Grove, after Matt Hancock announced a local extension of lockdown

But those living on a street in Scraptoft last night said they were ‘totally confused’ by the Government’s lockdown boundary, as it leaves half the road under strict lockdown and others free to enjoy the nationwide easing of restrictions on July 4.  

Kathleen McDonagh, 77, who lives a few metres inside Leicester’s lockdown border with her daughter Mary, 56, faces a wait of at least two weeks before she can enjoy relaxed Covid-19 measures and be able to head to the pub, hair salons and restaurants.

The pair will also have to wait before they can visit with their children and grandchildren, enjoy a cup of tea at The White Horse, or attend mass at the nearby St Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Veronica Cayless, 77, who lives in a house opposite the McDonaghs, is excited to restart her life alongside most Britons on what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.   

Her home falls outside the extended lockdown boundary, which was announced on Monday amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in Leicester. The city accounted for around 10 per cent of all positive cases in Britain over the past week.  

Leicester has an infection rate of 135 per 100,000 people, which is three times higher than the next highest local area. Hospital admissions are also much higher than the norm at between six and ten per day.

The families both live on a quiet suburban street made up of semi-detached, four-bedroom homes with neatly manicured lawns. 

But the imposition of a local lockdown boundary means some residents will have to remain in isolation while others will, from Saturday, enjoy the same liberation as the rest of the country. 

Less than a mile away from Mrs McDonagh and Ms Cayless, neighbours who fall both inside and outside the lockdown zone are separated by a mere wooden picket fence. 

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