Solihull Council is taking action following a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the borough.
Since the start of September, there have been 115 cases of Covid-19 in Solihull, compared to a total of 84 cases across the whole of August. This rapid acceleration has increased local rates from an average of between 7 and 10 in August to 53.4 by Saturday 5 September.
There has also been a substantial drop in the average age of people testing positive, from 61 years old at the peak of the pandemic, to 37 years old at the current time.
The sharp increase has not been driven by a single factor and is not concentrated in a single location. There have been higher rates in the western areas of the borough, but 13 out of our 17 wards now have rates above 20 per 100,000.
We have also not seen major local outbreaks: we are seeing patterns of small household outbreaks and small outbreaks linked to workplaces, restaurants and social mixing with friends and family. We are working closely with the local NHS including University Hospitals Birmingham, who are also seeing rises in hospital admissions and new cases, although these are well below what was seen at the peak of the pandemic.
This is all a very significant concern for Solihull, and rapid collective action is needed to reverse this upward trend, fast, particularly as we work hard to support the important return back to school and college.
An Incident Management Team for Solihull, led by our Chief Executive, is meeting daily with the Regional Convenor and Public Health England.
The Council is therefore building on all the measures that we have put in place over the course of the pandemic, and is taking further steps to tackle these rising rates, reduce the transmission of Covid-19 and protect those who are most vulnerable. This will reduce the longer-term risk of a more intensive lockdown and the economic impacts this would have.
We are now implementing a set of measures to do this, including:
- Extra visits to pubs, bars and restaurants to check compliance, using legal powers where we need to.
- Rapid follow up of public complaints and reports of any venues that are linked to local cases.
- Working with the police to safely manage local events and using legal powers to stop any that are a risk to public health.
- High-vis street teams to talk to people and businesses to reinforce testing & social distancing.
- Promoting a strong message in public places, hoarding and on social media around ‘Let’s do the right thing for Solihull’ to make it clear that we need everyone to step up fast to control the virus.
- Local contact tracing alongside the national Test and Trace scheme to rapidly identify outbreaks and spot where people might have picked up Covid-19.
A Mobile Testing Unit will be opening in Solihull this week, for pre-booked Covid-19 tests (online or via 119) as part of wider measures to increase access to testing.
The sharp increase in cases means we also need to take rapid action to protect our care homes. We have taken the very difficult decision today to suspend visits to care homes in Solihull with immediate effect, to reduce the risk of the virus transmitting. We will work with homes to make sure that safe visiting can take place in exceptional circumstances on compassionate grounds. This position will be reviewed weekly, and more information on this will be issued later today.
We will call upon enhanced support from government where we believe this will help us to tackle the virus more rapidly, but we urge all residents to do the right thing for Solihull, and keep social distancing, handwashing, wear face coverings and get a test at the first symptom of Covid-19.
Solihull Council’s Chief Executive, Nick Page, said:
“We have done really well to date in controlling Covid-19 in Solihull. However, we now need to increase our efforts. Too many people are not following the guidance and worryingly some seem to consider the pandemic is over. It is clear to us in Solihull that this is not the case.”
The Director of Public Health for Solihull, Ruth Tennant, said:
“The rapid and steep increase in Covid-19 cases we have seen in a short period of time is a real cause for concern and it will need a very rapid collective effort from everyone to turn this around fast.
“Wherever you live please do your bit. Reduce your social contacts, keep your distance and do the right thing for yourself and other people who may be more vulnerable than you are.
“This hasn’t gone away. We really want to avoid a new very restrictive lockdown that could affect jobs and businesses. And in the critical run up to winter flu season, we must do everything we can to keep the number of cases low.
“Having spoken to people who have had Covid-19, I’ve heard first-hand stories of how hard this can hit, even people who don’t need hospital care. Some people may be fortunate to get a very mild case – and we know this is the case for school age children – but for others this can be life-threatening.”