Public health officials and politicians in Merseyside say ‘we all have our part to play’ as the region is put on a Government watchlist due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyside could see a return of COVID-19 restrictions if the number of cases continues to rise, public health officials are warning.
All five boroughs – Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens – are now on the Government’s ‘watchlist’ after cases rose to around 60 per 100,000 people. The line of concern is 50 per 100,000, the current estimated rate in Liverpool.
It doesn’t mean extra lockdown measures are imminent but they are more likely if we don’t get the levels of infection lower. People are being urged to following social distancing guidance, wash their hands regularly and get tested if they have symptoms.
In Liverpool alone a total of 303 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the last seven days, double the previous week and four times that of the week before. If the rate continues to rise, restrictive measures could be placed on the city similar to those in other areas such as Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Birmingham.
Click here to see the number of confirmed cases in each ward in Liverpool
Liverpool’s director of public health, Matt Ashton, said: “This is a wake-up call – cases have risen four-fold in just 14 days and if that growth continues at this rate we are going to be in a very, very serious position again before we know it.
“The next few days are absolutely critical if we are to avoid an escalation and the possibility of the type of measures that we have seen in other areas of the country when cases have risen.
“Around 60 per cent of the cases are in under 40s and the very real and present danger is that they spread the disease to older people and we start to see hospitalisation of vulnerable people.”
Mr Ashton added that we all “had a part to play” and advised people to use venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants that are COVID-safe, and to avoid those that aren’t taking details for test and trace, maintaining social distancing and have hand sanitisation stations.
The council’s licensing team is visiting venues across the city to carry out checks on the measures they have in place, issue advice and guidance and take action where necessary. The key advice is:
- Stay at least two metres away from anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home.
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water not available.
- Wear a face covering over your mouth and nose where social distancing is not possible outdoors and indoors.
By law, people must now wear face coverings in most indoor settings including public transport, shops, post-offices, banks, beauty salons, visitor attractions and entertainment venues, libraries, community centres, places of worship and public areas in hotels.
For the first time in a few weeks the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Pilot Survey, published on Fiday, is indicating a rise in cases across England. The ONS estimates that between August 20 and September 5, 39,000 in England had COVID-19, out of a total population of more than 54 million.
This is up from the figure of 27,100 people a week ago. A rise from 0.05% to 0.07% It equates to 3.200 new cases a day, up from 2,000 in the previous week. This is illustrated in the graph, below.
And a separate study from Imperial College in London predicts the number of coronavirus cases in England are doubling every seven to eight days.
Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial, said: “The prevalence of the virus in the population is increasing. We found evidence that it has been accelerating at the end of August and beginning of September.”
And the latest R figure (rate of infection) for the UK is reported to be between 1.0 and 1.2, with the number of new infections somewhere between shrinking by 1% and growing by 3% every day.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, added: “We are not yet at the stage of having extra restrictions imposed on us – as other areas have – but, if we continue on our current trajectory, it will become a case of when, not if this happens.
“There is still time for us to stop that happening – but doing so depends on us and what we choose to do. I am working hard with our local councils and other partners to do everything in our power to keep the spread of the virus under control, but we cannot do that without your help.”