The city of Leeds has been added to the government watchlist as an “area of concern” due to rising numbers of coronavirus infection, the city council has confirmed.
Public Health England’s latest COVID-19 surveillance report, published on Friday afternoon, details rates of infection across the country, and categorises areas identified as having high infection rates.
A spokesman from Leeds City Council confirmed that the city had been placed on the list before the government officially announced it.
He said: “The latest seven-day infection figures show Leeds as having a rate of 32.4 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate on testing of 3.5%.
“The latest data suggests that a lot of the cases are in different areas of the city, meaning they may be linked to social interaction and leisure activities.
“The spread is broad and changeable across wards and cases have also been increasingly detected in younger people aged 18-34, with some concern over activities like house parties and gatherings.”
While being on the areas of concern list will not mean any further restrictions on Leeds at this stage, it does mean increased monitoring of cases and potential additional steps in future if the city’s infection rates do not start to fall.
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and chair of the city’s Outbreak Control Board, said: “We have been working tirelessly with our partners and communities, doing everything within our power to keep the spread of this virus under control and to ensure Leeds stays open.
“However, we can’t accomplish that alone and this rise in infection rates means that inevitably, our window of opportunity is shrinking by the day and the city is rapidly approaching a tipping point.
“We completely understand that these past six months have put a tremendous strain on everyone in Leeds and that being able to get out, socialise and enjoy ourselves has provided a massive lift.
“But it is absolutely crucial that if we want to continue to do that, we all do it sensibly and responsibly and follow the latest guidance which is there to keep us all safe.”
West Yorkshire Police have urged residents to observe social distancing rules and help prevent the spread of the virus.
Superintendent Jackie Marsh said the force are “continuing to work closely alongside partner agencies in Leeds to keep people safe from the ongoing threat to public health that COVID-19 presents”.
In a statement released on Friday, she said: "We are very conscious of the current heightened focus on Leeds and the need for everyone to play their part in complying with the restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.
“We will be maintaining our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance with the restrictions in the first instance but will look to enforcement measures where necessary.
"There is a particular focus on young people as a risk group and sadly we have continued to see some unlicensed events and illegal large gatherings throughout the lockdown period and most recently over the Bank Holiday weekend.
“These present a real risk to the health of people in our communities and we have taken firm action where needed, including the use of fines and other measures.
“We know that the majority of people are complying with the necessary restrictions and we hope everyone will recognise the need to continue to do the right thing to keep themselves and their communities safe.”
A new interactive coronavirus map that predicts areas that will become coronavirus hotspots in the next few weeks was launched this week.
The map suggested that Leeds, Cardiff, and Breckland in Norfolk, could all see a major uptick in cases in coming weeks.
Leeds, which had 32.2 cases per 100,000 in the week starting 23 August, only had a 20% chance of becoming a hotspot this week. However, the website predicts it has an 85% chance of becoming a hotspot by 19 September.
Cardiff had only an 8% chance of becoming a hotspot this week, but this rockets to 71% by 19 September.
Five areas in Norfolk are now under ‘enhanced support’ after an isolated outbreak at a poultry factory.
However, it was announced on Friday that some lockdown measures in Greater Manchester will be eased from next week.
Mayor Andy Burnham welcomed the move but reiterated the need for people to follow social distancing to prevent a resurgence in cases.
🗣️ "We have been asking the Government to consider easing restrictions on business opening across Greater Manchester and welcome the Secretary of State’s positive announcement."
Andy has responded to the latest easement of restrictions on GM businesses.https://t.co/9HCbZZJQIJ pic.twitter.com/MmP7dRVx58
— Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) September 4, 2020
The government announced that casinos, bowling alleys and other leisure facilities can reopen everywhere in Greater Manchester except for Bolton.
Changes will come into effect from 00.01am on 8 September.
Socially distanced indoor performances will also be able to resume, and remaining restrictions on certain close contact services such as treatments on the face will be lifted.
This will not be allowed to happen yet in Bolton.
The easements will bring much of the country, apart from Bolton, Lancashire, and West Yorkshire, in line with the changes made in the rest of the country on 15 August.
But health secretary Matt Hancock said the infection rate in Greater Manchester is still too high to lift restrictions on gatherings.
A ban on two households mixing indoors will continue in City of Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Trafford, Oldham, Bury, Bolton, and Tameside.
In Oldham , in addition to a household mixing ban indoors, residents will continue to be advised to avoid mixing with anyone from another household anywhere.
A full list of areas affected by local lockdowns and details of the restrictions can be found on the gov.uk website.
Coronavirus: what happened today