Coronavirus cases are falling in the North East three weeks after lockdown restrictions were imposed on large swathes of the region, a council chief has claimed.
Draconian measures saw almost two million Britons barred from mixing with others from outside their household in private homes, gardens, pubs and restaurants on September 18. But Gateshead council leader Martin Gannon has revealed today that – when students are removed from the figures – the number of new cases in Newcastle and Gateshead is now starting to drop.
‘We have evidence in the region – if you take the spike in students out – even in central Newcastle and central Gateshead we’re beginning to see a reduction in the number of new cases,’ he said. ‘What we’re saying is the measures are working at the moment.’
Gateshead recorded a 72 per cent spike in its infection rate over the last seven days, according to Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report, rising from 129.4 to 221.7 cases per 100,000 people. In Newcastle the rate rose by 90 per cent, from 250.5 to 475 per 100,000.
More than 1,600 students tested positive for the virus on Thursday, with 1,003 at Newcastle University and 619 at Northumbria University. They have been asked to quarantine inside their halls of residence.
It comes as the Government is expected to unveil a ‘three-tier’ lockdown system on Monday. Large areas of the North of England are expected to be placed in the highest category, which would see pubs and bars shuttered.
The Prime Minister’s chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister wrote to northern MPs following a meeting with leaders from the North on Friday to warn it was ‘very likely’ the region would be hit with tougher coronavirus restrictions. But northern leaders have complained they have not been consulted and said that more restrictions will lead to further ‘resistance and confusion’.
As the UK counts down to the new lockdown system:
- Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson slams ‘Saint’ Rishi Sunak’s new furlough scheme for being ‘not generous’ enough and suggests more money would have been provided if it was in the South;
- Coronavirus hospital admission in England rise 50 per cent in a week as hospitals in the North make up almost two-thirds of patients;
- Doctors warn face masks should be mandatory inside and outside in England to curb the spread of infections;
- A think-tank warns furlough mark two could cost the Treasury more than £2.4billion in six months as it estimates 444,000 hospitality employees will qualify for the scheme;
- Revellers are filmed spilling into London’s Leicester Square and dancing together with no regard for social distancing measures after 10pm curfew;
- London Mayor Sadiq Khan warns the capital could face tougher restrictions as leafy Richmond becomes the worst-hit borough – but one report suggests the R rate in the city is below 1;
- Scottish drinkers have been making the most of their last day at the bar before pubs shut down at 6pm for two weeks in a bid to crackdown on coronavirus;
- Britain’s R rate drops as it is estimated to be at 1.5 based on three-week-old data and the UK records 13,864 positive cases of coronavirus yesterday as the disease continues to surge.
Britain’s coronavirus reproduction rate has fallen slightly, according to the Government’s scientific advisers. They say the current R value – the number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – is between 1.2 and 1.5. This is down slightly on last week’s range of 1.3 and 1.
COUNTY DURHAM: Cases also appear to be falling in this local area. They are shown by date the test was taken
NEWCASTLE: There also appears to be a drop in the number of new cases in this area. Graphed by date test was taken
Deputy chief medical officer warns UK hospitals are seeing similar number of Covid patients to those at outbreak
The Government’s deputy chief medical officer has claimed the UK is nearly back to where it was in March as hospital admissions for coronavirus surged by 50 per cent in a week in England.
Jonathan Van-Tam told MPs that intensive care units in the North West could be full within three weeks as the latest figures show there are now 3,090 Covid-19 patients being treated in English hospitals. This is just seven fewer than on March 23, when the national lockdown was imposed.
On Wednesday, 491 new patients were admitted to hospitals, close to the 586 on March 19 — the week before Boris Johnson gave his ‘stay at home’ order.
During that time the average number of daily admissions has surged from 285 to 441, showing that hospitalisations are picking up now that the number of cases is hitting high levels.
Hospital admissions could be doubling every week in the North West as Professor Van-Tam said the region’s intensive care beds were ‘two to three doubling times’ away from capacity.
Yesterday Britain recorded 13,864 cases and 87 deaths, compared with just 74 deaths on March 19. At the time, the coronavirus epidemic was doubling every three or four days.
Official figures released yesterday indicate that the true figure of infections doubled in a week to 45,000 a day amid fears the outbreak is ‘getting out of control’.
The North is being hit disproportionately hard and accounted for 60 per cent of hospitalisations on that day, which is the most recent data available.
With the Midlands included, areas outside of the South account for around three quarters of admissions, again drawing a line through the North-South divide.
Raising the alarm over tougher lockdown restrictions, Gateshead leader Mr Gannon told the Today programme they are fighting against tightened rules because the evidence suggests current measures are stemming the rising tide of infections.
‘We’re opposing further restrictions in the North East on the basis of the scientific evidence,’ he said.
‘We have evidence in the region – there is a spike in students but if you take the students out – even in central Newcastle and central Gateshead – we’re beginning to see a reduction in the number of new cases.
‘So our argument is that even with the mixed messaging, even with the confusion and frustration, the measures that are in at the moment are beginning to work.
He pleaded: ‘Work with us, give us more time, help us to win confidence and persuade people – those really good people in Newcastle who want to do the right thing.’
The Labour leader also revealed he had a meeting with senior Government advisers and 40 other North East leaders this week to discuss the new restrictions, but no national politicians were present.
He said they made ‘very clear arguments’ to halt the closure of hospitality venues on the basis of evidence they had gathered.
‘I think new measures would be counter-productive,’ he said. ‘We had three different sets of regulations in 10 days which caused huge resistance and confusion.
‘Our argument is that even with the mixed messaging, even with the confusion and frustration, the measures that are in at the moment are beginning to work.’
It comes after the Mayor of Liverpool slammed ‘Saint’ Rishi Sunak’s new furlough scheme as ‘not generous’ and accused him of treating the North of England with ‘disdain’.
Under furlough mark two, workers can claim two-thirds of their wages up to £2,100 from the UK Government if coronavirus restrictions require their employers to pull down the shutters.
But Mayor Joe Anderson today blasted the scheme for not going far enough, and criticised it for being lower than the previous bail-out package.
Mr Gannon echoed his concerns, warning many people working in pubs, bars and restaurants – which are likely to be asked to close – will struggle to ‘put food on the table’ with just two-thirds of their wages.
Hammering the Government for not going far enough, Labour party member Anderson told the Today programme: ‘(The new furlough scheme) is not generous at all, it is indeed lower than the previous furlough scheme that was introduced.
‘I just wonder that if this was in Southern areas of the country, or in London, whether it would be at this level and not at a different level. We feel, I feel personally, that the North is being treated with disdain by this Government.
‘But I guess, when you look at it, it’s better than nothing and the pressure that we’ve put on the last few weeks demanded some local furlough scheme. At least it’s now being heard’.
Gateshead council leader Martin Gannon has revealed cases are falling in the North East
He warned the city would likely be plunged into a ‘tier-three’ lockdown under plans to be announced by Boris Johnson on Monday. This would see the closure of pubs and bars, he said, but restaurants would be allowed to stay open until 10pm.
Liverpool’s infection rate spiked 116 per cent in the last week, according to figures compiled by Public Health England, rising from 239.3 to 517.4 cases per 100,000 people.
Labour council leader Gannon, who represents Gateshead in the North East of England, warned this morning the new furlough would fail to help families.
He told the Today programme: ‘I know people who work in the hospitality sector and even on full pay they struggle to put food on the table for their families.
‘For Rishi Sunak, I mean he may be able to live on two-thirds of his salary, you and I, we would be able to live on two-thirds of our salary, but for many of those people who work in the hospitality sector they can’t comply with requirements. They’re not going to obey the law on the basis of two-thirds of their salary.’
The above graph shows the number of patients in mechanical ventilator beds in the North East and Yorkshire
This graph shows the number of patients in Hospital in the North East and Yorkshire
And this graph shows the daily number of Covid-19 patients receiving healthcare in the North East and Yorkshire
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson slammed the Government for bringing forward a furlough scheme that was ‘not generous’ enough
Doctors say masks should be mandatory inside AND outside
Face masks should be made mandatory outdoors as well as indoors and in workplaces where social distancing cannot be practiced, top doctors have warned.
The British Medical Association suggests that those older than 60, or who are obese or have other health conditions making them vulnerable to coronavirus should be supplied with ‘medical grade’ masks, in line with WHO guidance.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, its chairman, said the Government’s measures to suppress Covid-19 are not working and called for further measures including a restriction of alcohol sales in England and a tightening of the Rule of Six to limit the number of households which can mingle to two
He also warned the public is in danger of losing faith in existing restrictions, and urged for face masks to be worn outdoors where people cannot keep two metres apart — including in offices and other workplaces.
Face masks are already compulsory on public transport, railways stations and airports, shops, and cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants before being seated.
The BMA boss told The Times: ‘It cannot be easy for the public to understand what will make a difference if they’re told to wear a mask in one setting, but then it’s not required in another.
‘It’s clear that most workplaces were never designed for people to work two metres apart. The rules should be absolutely that where you are likely to interact with one another within two metres, you wear a mask indoors.
Meanwhile, the leaders of West Yorkshire councils warned another lockdown will have a ‘devastating’ effect on the town and city centres and regional economy.
In a joint letter to the Chancellor and health and housing secretaries on Friday, the leaders said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement that workers in businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the Government was ‘not enough’.
They added: ‘Government must, for both levels two and three, provide a substantial economic package including grants and furlough – not just where businesses are mandated to close.
‘In a three-level approach, there must be significantly more support available to businesses in areas that are in either level two or level three to avoid an even deeper economic catastrophe.’
Chris Snowdon, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, told MailOnline any tightening of restrictions involving the closure of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will be ‘counter-productive’.
He pointed to the situation in Bolton, where cases have rocketed by 39 per cent over the past seven days to 250 per 100,000 despite heightened restrictions on hospitality.
‘I suspect that a lot of the transmission in recent weeks is from private gatherings, many of which are technically illegal,’ he said, referring to infections across the whole country.
‘The 10pm closing time led to more house parties, less social distancing. I don’t think pubs being closed is going to stop people meeting for a drink.’
He added: ‘It’s interesting that local leaders are opposed to these measures.
‘We’ve also seen this in Spain where the Madrid Government is fighting the Spanish Government.
‘We don’t know what the (UK Government) announcement is going to be yet, but you’re always going to get cases where you have badly affected regions or towns where infections are going up sharply but have places where infections are low.
‘When you take a broad brush you are going to negatively affect people who are not enjoying any of the benefits. But the Government has decided it wants to simplify the equation.’
A think-tank has warned the scheme could cost the Treasury £2.4billion in six months, on top of the billions spent during the national lockdown. The Resolution Foundation made the prediction after predicting more than 444,000 hospitality employees would qualify for the scheme. The second round of furlough will be reviewed in January.
In the scheme, employers will still be required to meet the cost of national insurance payments and pension contributions. There will also be more grants available up to £3,000 a month, payable in two-week installations.
It comes after slides from a Government presentation to Northern MPs – which were published after they were leaked – revealed its assertion that 30 per cent of all coronavirus transmissions may be happening in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Furious MPs blasted the claim saying it was an example of ministers ‘cobbling together’ numbers to ‘justify’ their point of view – ahead of expected sweeping restrictions.
Experts from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) also rubbished the official claim, reminding ministers that data shows less than five per cent of those contacted by NHS Test and Trace had been in close contact with another person in a hospitality venue.
They also pointed to the enforced closure of hospitality venues in Bolton and Leicester, saying it had failed to curb the spread of the disease. The latest Public Health England data reveals cases surged by 39 per cent in Bolton this week, with the rate rising to 250.6 per 100,000 people, and in Leicester they rose by 35 per cent to 120.2.
A business minister yesterday defended the Government’s ‘flimsy’ data based on fewer than 100 pubs, saying he would have used the ‘quite representative’ sample size while working in the business sector.
Nadhim Zahawi MP told LBC: ‘I used to work in the serving industry and I can tell you when you do business surveys, 98 businesses, or 100 businesses, is actually quite a representative sample. If you’re doing public opinions, 1,000 interviews is a representative sample. It’s actually a pretty robust sampling.’
And the Prime Minister’s deputy spokesman dug his heels in claiming hospitality venues account for the ‘highest rates of common exposure to Covid-19, especially for those under 30 years old’.
The Government claimed in a private press briefing yesterday that up to 30 per cent of coronavirus transmission is linked to pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. The slides were leaked – and today ministers decided to publish them in full. Above is one of the 13 slides from the press briefing
This slide, revealed today, was also shown at the briefing. It reveals how infection rates are highest among young people
His claim comes after enraged MPs slammed the Government for presenting the ‘early analysis’ figures to them, and criticised officials’ decision to include a three-month-old American study from which they cherry-picked the figures to bolster their claims.
The slides – marked ‘Cabinet Office’ – also claimed claimed food outlets and bars made up as much as 41 per cent of transmission among the under 30s. But this was in stark contrast to Public Health England’s own data, which suggested only four per cent of Covid-19 outbreaks can be traced back to the venues.
The NHS coronavirus app was revealed yesterday to have sent only one alert related to one venue since its launch two weeks ago, despite millions of check-ins and more than 16million downloads.
Shadow digital minister Chi Onwurah told Sky News this was a ‘plain contradiction’ of the Government’s claim hospitality venues were a major source, and said ministers ‘need to get a grip’.
After ministers confirmed they will not shut schools, experts have argued they have few options left in terms of where to close to reduce social interaction, which is where the virus spreads – meaning the axe may fall on the hospitality sector. Many scientists have, however, argued against tightening the measures – and urged ministers to instead try to learn how to live with the virus.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty briefed 149 MPs from the North and the Midlands yesterday to tell them that a ‘significant proportion’ of exposure to coronavirus was happening in the hospitality sector.