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Cases 'fall by a third' in Sandwell after Covid-19 spike

Allen Cook

BBC News

People who have been shielding in Sandwell due to Covid-19 have been advised they can stop after new cases fell by a third in a week, the local council has said.

An NHS employee stands in front of a car at a testing centre

Latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) recorded 60 cases in the seven days to 3 August compared with 91 for the week before.

The council said while it was changing its advice on shielding, it was continuing to advise all visits to care homes take place behind windows or special arrangements for end-of-life.

People should also not have visitors to their homes except for those in their social bubble or for essential visits, it added.

A week ago, PHE labelled Sandwell an area of concern after a spike in cases.

Thunderstorms warning for next week

People in the West Midlands should be prepared for severe thunderstorms early next week, the Met Office said.

Area covered
Met Office

It has put out a yellow warning from 00:00 on Monday until 00:00 on Wednesday.

However, the alert covers the whole country as the Met Office said there was "significant uncertainty in location and timing".

Weather: A warm and sunny Friday

BBC Weather

Plenty of sunshine around and it will be mainly dry and fine with just the chance of a few showers this afternoon. High: 28C (82F).

BBC Weather Watcher Sue Snaps
This morning in Codsall, Staffordshire

Warm and muggy tonight with any lingering showers clearing away to leave it dry with clear spells. Low: 16C (61F).

You can get a latest forecast for your area at any time by going to the BBC Weather website.

Pay dispute threatens future of reopened leisure centres

Local Democracy Reporting Service

The Local Democracy Reporting Service in the West Midlands has been covering these stories this week:

  • Council-run swimming pools and gyms in Sandwell which reopened last week could shut again over a pay dispute. Unions say they will ballot staff on strike action unless Sandwell Leisure Trust improves its offer of a 1% wage increase over the next two years. The trust says the proposed offer is about the financial viability of the leisure centres.
One of Sandwell's leisure centres

  • Children going to a pupil referral unit in Walsall are set to move to temporary buildings ahead of the construction of a brand new school. The council's expected to approve spending £850,000 on facilities for pupils of the New Leaf Centre while a new £7.5m new centre is built.
  • A new learning centre could be built next to a Sikh temple in Wolverhampton to teach younger members about the religion. Guru Nanak Gurdwara, in Wednesfield, has submitted a proposal to Wolverhampton Council for a two-storey building next to the temple.

Police patrols considered to cut Covid-19 cases

Allen Cook

BBC News

Police officers could be sent on more patrols in Sandwell as part of efforts to contain a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

A member of medical staff takes a swab from a person in a car

Chief Constable Dave Thompson in his latest blog said his force would be "seeking to maximise visibility and interventions" to bring infections down in the area.

The latest data from Public Health England actually revealed a fall in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Sandwell.

The figures showed 19.5 people tested positive for every for every 100,000 population (for the seven days to 1 August), down from 31.2 just a week earlier.

However, while the rate is below the 89.3 per 100,000 in Blackburn with Darwen, it is above the average rate for England of 8.8 per 100,000.

Weather: A dry and warm Thursday

BBC Weather

Today's going to be very warm and mainly dry with just the chance of the odd shower this morning. High: 25C/77F.

This morning in Moreton on Lugg, Herefordshire
BBC Weather Watcher Mightyship
This morning in Moreton on Lugg, Herefordshire

It will stay dry tonight with clear spells, feeling humid and mild with a low of 15C/59F.

Keep up-to-date on the forecast for your area by going to the BBC Weather website.

Gazebo and barbecue abandoned at country park

Rubbish including a gazebo, a barbecue and a petrol can have been left at a country park.

The gazebo
Sandwell Council

Sandwell Council said today there were also tables and chairs left behind at Sandwell Valley Country Park.

Branding it "disgusting and totally unacceptable", the local authority tweeted it took staff more than two hours to clean up.

Guard of honour at funeral of special constable

A funeral has been held today for a special constable who died months after he was hit by a car.

Special Constable Resham Singh Nahal pictured in 2017 at Pride with Chief Constable Dave Thompson
West Midlands Police

Resham Singh Nahal (left) was hit by a car while attending the scene of a separate collision in Oldbury, on 8 November.

Last month, West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson confirmed his death and the force said tests would determine if his death related to the injuries he suffered on duty.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said Mr Nahal was also part of its Patient Transport Service and colleagues formed a guard of honour at Perry Barr Crematorium.

Colleagues at the funeral
West Midlands Ambulance Service

Coronavirus: How many cases are there in your area?

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Sandwell has fallen, according to new figures.

A test sample is held at a COVID-19 testing centre

The borough was named as an area of concern by Public Health England last month after a rise in cases.

But data from Public Health England shows there were 66 new cases in the week up to 31 July. Figures for the seven days to 24 July showed 96 cases.

That means 20.2 people tested positive for every for every 100,000 population (up to 31 July), down from 29.3 a week earlier.

Here are the rate of infections (per 100,000 people) for all local authorities in the West Midlands - for the seven days up to 31 July, compared with the previous week.

  • Birmingham down to 12.7 from from 13.4
  • Bromsgrove down to 6.1 from 7.1
  • Cheshire East up to 6.6 from 1.3
  • Coventry up to 14.7 from 8.7
  • Dudley up to 4.7 from 3.4
  • East Staffordshire up to 9.3 from 8.4
  • Herefordshire remains at 5.7
  • Lichfield up to 6.7 from 2.9
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme up to 7.0 from 3.1
  • North Warwickshire is down to 6.2 from 9.3
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth up to 17.8 from 8.5
  • Redditch remains at 1.2
  • Rugby up to 6.5 from 1.9
  • Sandwell down to 20.2 from 29.3
  • Shropshire up to 6.2 from 5.0
  • Solihull up to 7.0 from 4.2
  • South Staffordshire down to 3.6 from 6.2
  • Staffordshire Moorlands up to 6.1 from 1.0
  • Stoke-on-Trent down to 3.1 from 4.3
  • Stratford-on-Avon up to 3.1 from 0.8
  • Tamworth up to 2.6 from 1.3
  • Telford and Wrekin remains at 3.9
  • Walsall remains at 8.1
  • Warwick remains at 4.2
  • Wolverhampton up to 16.8 from 14.5
  • Worcester down to 3.9 from 7.9
  • Wychavon down to 4.7 from 7.9

Two coronavirus cases at police custody block

Two staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at a West Midlands Police custody suite in Oldbury, Sandwell.

The personnel are self-isolating for 10 days and contact tracing is ongoing to find any other members of staff who may have been in contact with them.

No members of the public detained in the block were assessed to have had significant contact with the infected individuals, the force said.

The Oldbury block
West Midlands Police

On Friday, Sandwell was named as an "area of concern" by Public Health England, although Oldbury has been less seriously affected than Smethwick and West Bromwich.

Supt Martin Hurcomb said: "We understand the anxiety and impact this virus has had and continues to have on people and assure you we have done everything necessary to minimise the risk."

Dr Lisa McNally, director of public health for Sandwell, added: "West Midlands Police sought public health advice in good time and all appropriate preventative actions have been taken.

"Their quick response will have served to minimise the risk of onward infection."

Weather: Mainly dry and sunny today

BBC Weather

Monday will be mainly dry with sunny spells although there could be some more cloud around this afternoon with a few light showers. High: 19C/66F.

Leek this morning
Tammys Pics
This morning near Leek, Staffordshire

Then although there'll be some patchy cloud with the odd shower tonight, it will generally turn dry with clear spells through the night. Low: 8C/46F.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest forecast for your area by going to the BBC Weather website.

BreakingSandwell named area of concern by the government

Sandwell, which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has been officially named an "area of concern" by the government.

Earlier, Sandwell Council called on local households not to mix indoors.

It is also asking people who are shielding to continue doing so, unlike the national guidance, which outlines a "pause" in shielding from this weekend.

The council also said anyone with symptoms to self-isolate immediately and book a test.

The decision to upgrade Sandwell to an area of concern is not only based on the number of confirmed cases in the area, but also advice from experts.

The number of new cases peaked at 106 for the seven days up to 26 July, according to Public Health England. Although the seven days to 27 July show a small drop to 92 new cases.

Sandwell's rate of 28.1 infections per 100,000 people is still less than half of that in Blackburn & Darwen and even further than that in Leicester when lockdown measures were introduced.

BreakingUrgent bid to stop local lockdown

Urgent advice for residents in Sandwell has been issued in an attempt to avoid a local lockdown.

The prime minister has confirmed that a planned "pause" on shielding will go ahead as planned - affecting some 2.2 million people.

However, those residents shielding in Sandwell are being encouraged to continue doing so for the time being amid a spike in cases.

Other households are also advised not to mix indoors.


“We know that Covid-19 spreads more easily indoors - so, we really strongly recommend that people do not go inside other people’s houses while the infection rate is increasing," the council’s deputy leader Maria Crompton said.

Anyone who has symptoms must self-isolate and book a test

The council’s emergency committee met today to discuss the rise in Covid-19 cases in the borough, which has seen 85 people test positive over the past seven days.

The area is likely to be named as one "of concern" by the government.

Coronavirus: Sandwell could be named as 'area of concern'

Rob Mayor

Political reporter, BBC WM

Sandwell is likely to be named as an "area of concern" by the government today, because of a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

People living in the borough who have been shielding since the start of the crisis are being told to continue, whilst others are being told not to have unnecessary visitors at home.

The council in Sandwell have had an emergency meeting this morning where they looked at all the cases around figures of coronavirus after a spike in Smethwick.

We now know that West Bromwich is on a par with Smethwick in terms of the numbers of cases, so there is real concern about how quickly the virus is spreading.

There has been 173 confirmed cases in the area in the last two weeks.

The rate of infections has risen to 28.7 per 100,000 people for week up to 27 July, up from 26.9, according to Public Health England.

How hot is it going to get today?

BBC Weather

It will be a dry and hot day for most of the West Midlands with plenty of sunshine.

Later in the afternoon, some patchy cloud will build up, with the small chance of catching a sharp shower but temperatures could reach 32°C (90°F).

This was the scene in Eckington, Worcestershire, this morning and taken by BBC Weather Watcher Jo.

BBC Weather Watchers/Jo
Paramedic on struggle to recover mentally from stabbing
Deena Evans and her colleague Michael Hipgrave were stabbed while attending a patient in Wolverhampton.

Warning against anti-social behaviour issued ahed of Eid

Muslims across the West Midlands will be celebrating the festival of Eid al-Adha on Friday.

Worshipers are being asked celebrate virtually due to social-distancing measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic, and not gather in large family groups.

West Midlands Police is also asking people not to gather this evening causing anti-social behaviour including "revving engines and blowing horns into the early hours."

"Police ANPR operations and officers [will be] on duty until the early hours of the morning to deal with this problem should it arise," the force said.

Council launches own test and trace service

Sandwell Council has launched its own test and trace service and criticised the national system for not providing enough information.

Covid rates in Sandwell
BBC/Getty Images

A McDonald's restaurant has shut its doors after five staff tested positive for Covid-19 in the area where there has been a surge in infections.

The council's director of public health Dr Lisa McNally said it was failing to reach four out of 10 cases in the area.

"It's just not working well in areas where there's a lot of diversity," she said.

Launched on Wednesday, the council said it would be providing services in a number of languages to reach the different communities in the area.

Robots used to clean airport in coronavirus fight

Robots that can clean door handles and seats are being trialed at a Yorkshire airport to see if they can help in the fight against the coronavirus.

Robot cleaner

The University of Leeds has been using the machines at Leeds Bradford Airport and in Leeds city centre where they spray objects with a mist of diluted alcohol.

The robots use artificial intelligence to identify objects that need regular cleaning, like seats, bike stands or doors.

They then work together to avoid crashing into things or people.

The project, which involves the universities of Leeds and Birmingham, and University College London, was set up in May to look at how robots can help slow the spread of the virus.

Dr Mohammed Shaqura, from the University of Leeds, said: “The aim is to have robots that can regularly disinfect those spaces, doing away with the need for people to clean them and the risks they would face in becoming contaminated themselves.

“We are using machine learning techniques to have the robots fully autonomous, so they "know" which objects need cleaning – and will only require high-level supervision from operators.”

Gyms and pools to reopen despite Covid-19 spike

Local Democracy Reporting Service

George Makin

Gyms and swimming pools will reopen in Sandwell next week despite a rise in the number of positive Covid-19 cases in the borough.

Wednesbury leisure centre

Public Health England said the rate of infection in the area was 27.2 new cases per 100,000 people for the seven days to 24 July, compared to 21.7 the week before.

The figure is way below a current hotspot like Blackburn with Darwen which had 75.2 cases per 100,000 up to 24 July.

The Sandwell Leisure Trust, which runs the nine centres in Sandwell for the council, said it would start by reopening four of them from 6 August and monitor customer confidence and demand.

Weather: Sunshine and showers

BBC Weather

A mix of sunny spells and showers today. Cool and breezy with a high of 17C/63F.

Knowle, Solihull this morning
BBC Weather Watchers/Dammo
Knowle, Solihull this morning

Then any remaining showers will die out through tonight with clear spells appearing later on. Low: 11C/52F.

Get an up-to-date forecast for your area at any time by going to the BBC Weather website.

Weather: Showers all day

BBC Weather

There'll be outbreaks of showers today, with gusty winds, and the rain could be heavy at times with a small chance of thunder and lightning. High: 21C/70F.

Rain in Bromyard, Herefordshire, this morning
Mrs Baggins
Rain in Bromyard, Herefordshire, this morning

Windy this evening with a few showers before turning largely dry and clear overnight. Low: 11C/52F.

You can keep up-to-date on the forecast for your area by going to the BBC Weather website.

Coronavirus: How many cases are there in your area?

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Sandwell has risen again, according to new figures.

The data from Public Health England shows there were 86 new cases in the week up to 20 July. Figures for the seven days to 19 July showed 76 cases.

That means 26.3 people tested positive for every for every 100,000 population (up to 20 July), up from 12.2 a week earlier.

Dr Lisa McNally, the Director of Public Health for Sandwell, said on Monday it hadn't yet reached the stage where a local lockdown was needed, but she was monitoring the rise.

Infection rate slide

Here are the rate of infections (per 100,000 people) for all local authorities in the West Midlands - for the seven days up to 20 July, compared with the previous week.

  • Birmingham up to 12.9 from from 7.0
  • Bromsgrove up to 5.1 from 4.1
  • Cheshire East down to 3.9 from 4.2
  • Coventry up to 7.4 from 2.5
  • Dudley down to 0.9 from 2.2
  • East Staffordshire down to 15.2 from 29.5
  • Herefordshire down to 16.1 from 43.7
  • Lichfield up to 4.8 from 3.8
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme down to 2.3 from 5.4
  • North Warwickshire is up to 9.3 from 1.5
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth up to 10.9 from 10.1
  • Redditch up to 3.5 from 0.0
  • Rugby down to 3.7 from 10.3
  • Sandwell up to 26.3 from 12.1
  • Shropshire down to 0.9 from 3.4
  • Solihull down to 5.1 from 7.9
  • South Staffordshire stays the same at 2.7
  • Staffordshire Moorlands down to 0.0 from 4.1
  • Stoke-on-Trent down to 2.7 from 9.0
  • Stratford-on-Avon down to 0.0 from 5.5
  • Tamworth down to 2.6 from 3.9
  • Telford and Wrekin stays the same at 7.3
  • Walsall down to 8.8 from 11.3
  • Warwick up to 2.1 from 1.4
  • Wolverhampton up to 5.7 from 4.2
  • Worcester up to 4.9 from 2.9
  • Wychavon down from 1.6 from 4.7

What's the weather got in store?

BBC Weather

It will be a largely dry day with areas of cloud and the chance of some showers with highs of 23°C (73°F).

This was the view in Bromyard, Herefordshire, earlier taken by BBC Weather Watcher Mrs Baggins.

BBC Weather Watchers/Mrs Baggins

University reveals £5m expansion plan

Hundreds more students could be trained at Birmingham City University under a £5m expansion plan.

Birmingham City University

The university said it had bought a property for £2.2m on Harborne Road, near its City South Campus, which it's going to spend £2.8m transforming.

Once the makeover is carried out, officials said it would provide additional teaching and training space for more than 1,000 health and education students.

Bridges and roads to be fixed thanks to £7.5m fund

Allen Cook

BBC News

Bridges will be repaired and potholes prevented with £7.5m from the government, a council's said.

The money's coming to Sandwell and the local authority said it would be split between three schemes.

The bulk of the cash, nearly £5m, will go on essential repairs to Dudley Street Bridge and Scott Bridge in Newton Road, Great Barr.

The council said it'll use more than £2m to fix roads and footpaths to try and stop potholes forming and make them safer and smoother.

The rest will go on emergency measures to temporarily widen pavements, bring in one-way systems and introduce pop-up cycleways to try and get more people walking and cycling.

Weather: Sunny spells giving way to rain

BBC Weather

Some sunny spells this morning but it will soon turn pretty cloudy with some patchy, light rain forecast for this afternoon. A breezy day with a high of 19C/66F.

Barnt Green, Worcestershire this morning
Barnt Green, Worcestershire this morning

Any lingering rain will fizzle out through this evening, leaving a dry, fairly cloudy night with just a few clear spells. Low: 13C/55F.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest forecast for your area by going to the BBC Weather website.

West Brom secure promotion to the Premier League

BBC Sport

West Bromwich Albion will be back in the Premier League next season after securing promotion last night.

Charlie Austin of West Bromwich Albion sprays champagne after the result
Getty Images

Despite failing to beat QPR in their final league game of the season, a draw was enough for Slaven Bilic's Baggies to go up in second place after Brentford lost to Barnsley.

The only disappointment for Albion was that their latest promotion came behind closed doors, with no supporters allowed inside The Hawthorns because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, while Albion's players celebrated on the pitch and showered Bilic with champagne, a group of Baggies fans were determined not to be left out.

Despite warnings from both the club and Sandwell Council to stay away and follow social distancing guidelines, a large gathering of supporters were soon showing their glee as car horns blew and blue smoke gusted outside the Jeff Astle gates.

Elsewhere in the Championship last night, Birmingham City avoided relegation despite losing 3-1 at home to Derby and Stoke City beat Nottingham Forest 4-1.

Coronavirus cases rise further in Sandwell

Earlier this week, we reported there had been a big rise in the number of positive Covid-19 cases in Sandwell.

The latest government figures show the situation there has got even worse.

The number of positive tests are up from up from 28 a week, to 75 for the seven days up to 18 July.


That takes the rate per 100,000 people to 22.9, still some way off the current hot spot in Blackburn and Darwen which has a rate of 79.2.

Dr Lisa McNally, the Director of Public Health for Sandwell, said on Monday it hadn't yet reached the stage where a local lockdown was needed, but she was monitoring the rise.

In Herefordshire, where there was an outbreak at a farm in Mathon, the picture is looking more promising.

The number of cases dropped from 71 last week to 47 this week (seven days up to 18 July).

Farm at Mathon

Online harassement cases 'spiralling' during lockdown

The number of online harassment incidents has been "spiralling" during lockdown, West Midlands Police has said.

The number of cases has risen by 40% in recent weeks, with 2,500 reported in the last month.

Mobile phone
Getty Images

The force said the increase had come as "people spend even more time on social platforms" and that one victim had received 104 offensive or abusive messages in just one day.

Family and relationship disputes are listed as being the cause for about a third of incidents, but there have also been disputes between neighbours and workplace fall-outs.

The force has launched a social media campaign to warn offenders they could face jail and to highlight the impact online abuse can have on victims.

Zero Covid-19 deaths recorded for fifth day

BBC Midlands Today

There have been no coronavirus-related deaths recorded in the West Midlands for a fifth day in a row, figures show.

A test being carried out

The data from NHS England has the total number of Covid-19 deaths recorded since the pandemic began at 3,852.

This evening from 18:30, BBC Midlands Today will be examining if this marks the start of the end of the pandemic or if we are just moving into a new phase of living with coronavirus.

Baggies fans urged to stay home if promotion clinched

BBC Radio WM

West Bromwich Albion fans are being urged not to celebrate in big groups if the club secures promotion to the Premier League tonight.

The warning comes days after health bosses said they were worried by the "sharpness" of the rise in Covid-19 cases in Smethwick.

General view of West Bromwich Albion's stadium
Getty Images

The Baggies could confirm their return to the top flight tonight in the final round of Championship games.

Sandwell Council's director of public health, Lisa McNally, told BBC WM: "It is going to be amazing but we are at a really difficult time we are seeing really high rates of infection of Covid-19 in Sandwell."

“So please don’t find yourself in a crowd close to other people leaving yourself vulnerable to infection that could make you ill but also also makes those close to you very ill.”

Fans of Championship winners Leeds United and Premier League champions Liverpool have also been urged not to gather in crowds.

Force 'can't afford pay rises'

West Midlands Police might have to lose 36 officers to pay for the government's proposed pay increases, its Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.

David Jamieson said that the 2.5% increase couldn't be afforded from the existing budget for his force.

David Jamieson

Almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise, including doctors and teachers.

But the Treasury said the money for the pay increases of up to 3.1% would come from existing departmental budgets.