London was today placed on the national Covid-19 watchlist after seeing a spike in recorded cases and hospital admissions, amid fears the capital could be hit by a local lockdown.
Council bosses announced the response to the capital's crisis would be escalated during a meeting this morning. No tougher measures will be imposed yet but health chiefs have pledged to boost testing capacity to control any flare-ups. Formal confirmation is expected to be announced later by Public Health England.
Leeds is also expected to be hit with 'more household restrictions' such as a ban on mixing in homes and private gardens from midnight, while Cardiff and Swansea will be placed under a bunch of measures from 6pm on Sunday.
Dozens of areas across England which have seen Covid-19 infection rates spiral are currently on the watchlist, which is updated every Friday.
Authorities are separated into three different categories based on how the growth of outbreaks: 'concern', 'enhanced support' and 'intervention'. Local restrictions are imposed in areas carrying the 'intervention' tag.
Official government data shows the capital recorded 620 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday - twice as high as the rate last week. But different statistics that look at when samples were actually taken show the outbreak appears to have plateaued since spiking at the start of September.
Hospital admissions in the capital have tripled in a fortnight, with the rolling average rising from 11 on September 2 to 34.7 by September 19. But the number is still a far cry from the 700-plus at the height of the pandemic in spring and only slightly higher than they were the start of July (around 25).
For comparison, 13 times as many admissions were being recorded in March (425 on March 22) — before the national lockdown was imposed.
It comes as a striking MailOnline map today suggested London's Covid-19 hotspots may be linked by the city's bustling underground network.
Public Health England data shows only a handful of London's 32 boroughs are now seeing a sustained rise in infections - including Redbridge, Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham and Enfield. The data is set to be updated today, but gives an indication of which boroughs are struggling the most
London is thought to be on the brink of a localised lockdown. Official government data shows the capital recorded 620 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday - twice as high as the rate last week
Covid-19 hospital admissions in the capital have tripled in a fortnight, with the seven-day average rising from 11 on September 2 to 33.4 by September 18. But the number of hospitalisations in the city is still a far cry from the 700-plus at the height of the pandemic in spring and only slightly higher than they were the start of July (around 25), when the country was deemed safe to reopen again
London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressed for more measures to be imposed to stop cases rising any more before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nation-wide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and encouraged working from home again. Pictured: Soho
Leeds is also expected to be hit with new restrictions from midnight, including 'more household restrictions' along the lines of those already in force across three of the West Yorkshire districts, because of a rise in cases
London Councils, a cross-party organisation which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London, said the English capital was being placed on the national Covid-19 watchlist.
The list is divided between 'areas of intervention' which usually have local lockdown restrictions, areas of 'enhanced support', given more testing for example, and' areas of concern' that are closely monitored.
The most recent Watchlist, published last Friday, included:
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London Councils said no additional measures were being taken in the city but that 'the city’s testing capacity is boosted so that Londoners have timely access to Covid-19 tests and the government must ensure that this is sustained from now on'.
The organisation said London's Its entry on the list should serve as a 'stark reminder that now is time for all Londoners to pull together and take action'.
The watchlist is determined by Health Secretary Matt Hancock after studying epidemiological advice from the chief medical officer, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England.
Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader and London Mayor candidate, said: 'We have lacked test information in London for weeks, which has caused huge worry for all of us in local and regional government,' according to The Evening Standard.
'The news today that Public Health England has added London to its list of areas of concern, using estimates from other data, shows what a crucial time this is, and how all our actions can make a difference.
'The 10pm closing time for bars and restaurants has already led to crowded scenes on public transport that worry me greatly. My strong advice to Londoners today is to avoid going out in the next few days unless you have to, and find other ways to see friends and family.
'Like you, I am sad, tired and weary after six months of a gruelling national crisis, but we’re in a dangerous moment, lacking data and tests, and we must work together as a city amid rising signs of infection.'
Meanwhile the council leader of Leeds Judith Blake said she expected Leeds will be made an 'area of intervention' this Friday, up from enhanced support last week.
It means 'more household restrictions along the lines of those already in force across three of the West Yorkshire districts in Bradford, Kirkless and Calderdale', she said. From Tuesday, people in those areas have been banned from socialising with anyone not part of their household or support bubble in private homes and gardens.
Ms Blake told reporters: 'We expect them to come in from midnight.'
The addition of Leeds' 793,000 population would take the number of people living under local restrictions to more than 16.2million people across the UK.
Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city’s virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4 per cent. For comparison, Bolton's is 218.4 and the highest in England.
Mr Eaton said: 'The spread of the virus is very dynamic across the city. It’s clear to see we have very widespread community transmissions right across the city.
'We have high rates in some of our student areas which we have increased more recently. It’s clearly not just an issue for student areas.'
She said cases were rising in all age groups, not just young adults and that compliance with self-isolation rules was low in Leeds.
'We want to find ways to support local people to isolate,' she said. 'The expectation is the restrictions will be in place for a longer period of time, potentially right through the winter.'
Both London and Leeds have been feared to be tinkering on the brink of a 'local lockdown' for at least a week.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressed for more measures to be imposed to stop cases rising any more before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nation-wide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and encouraged working from home again.
Infections across the city has more than doubled since August, with the seven-day weekly average number of cases rising from 86 per 100,000 to 262 per 100,000.
Ministers are said to be mulling a decision to place more than 9million people in the city under even tighter restrictions, if the new suite of national social distancing measures announced by the Government this week fail to curb climbing numbers.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
The most up-to-date statistics released by Public Health England (PHE), which cover the week ending September 18, reveal that just a single borough in the capital — Redbridge — ranks among the top 40 worst-hit regions of the country.
But infection rates in 20 London boroughs are higher than areas of England already hit by restrictions.
PHE will publish its latest batch of figures on infections this afternoon which will also confirm London's spot on the watchlist.
It comes as the Welsh Government announce Cardiff and Swansea will go into local lockdown from 6pm on Sunday, and the town of Llanelli on Saturday at 6pm.
Under the restrictions, people will not be able to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse. They will not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with, with extended households suspended.
People must work from home when possible, health minister Vaughan Gething told a press conference in Cardiff.
Over the past seven days, Cardiff reached a test positivity rate of 3.8 per cent, exceeding the Welsh Government’s 'amber' threshold of 2.5 per cent – part of its 'traffic light roadmap' strategy for managing the pandemic.
On Thursday, Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas said the capital had seen 38.2 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people over the past five days. Swansea's rate is 49.8.
From 6pm on Thursday, changes to coronavirus regulations mean Welsh hospitality businesses including pubs, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and casinos must not supply alcohol between 10pm and 6am the following day.
Licensed premises will only be able to provide table service for customers when consuming food or drink, and following a 20-minute period to allow customers to finish their drinks at 10pm, must close by 10.20pm.
Leeds director of public health Victoria Eaton said the city’s virus rate was 98.5 per 100,000 people with a positive testing rate of 8.4 per cent. Pictured: Students and young people out drinking in the city this week
Wednesday night out in Leeds: Revellers queue up to party on the last night before the new 10pm curfew announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson
During a behind-closed-doors briefing this week, Kevin Fenton, director of Public Health England in London, told Mayor Mr Khan and the leaders of all 32 boroughs that all signs indicated the disease was making a rapid resurgence in the city.
Professor Fenton argued testing infrastructure had been stripped out of the capital and reallocated to hotspots in the north, meaning many Londoners may have gone undiagnosed.
He warned cases could be being massively under-reported due to Londoners struggling to get access to tests, and that increased hospital admissions and a rising number of calls to 111 were better indicators that London was in the midst of an outbreak as serious as in the northeast.