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UK News Sandwell traders fear a local lockdown could be 'final nail in the coffin'

09:27  02 august  2020
09:27  02 august  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

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  Council sets up own tracing system amid anger at government's version A council struggling to stave off a coronavirus local lockdown has got so fed up with perceived failures with the government's contact tracing system that it is setting up its own version. © Imagebridge Infection rates jumped by 332% in 14 days in Sandwell Sandwell's director of public health, Lisa McNally, told Sky News that dozens of staff had been seconded to the new team to battle COVID-19 outbreaks in the area.Sandwell, in the West Midlands, currently has the seventh highest case rate in England - 54.1 per 100,000 people - having seen a sharp jump of 332% in the 14 days up to 26 July.

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Market traders in the West Midlands say business was already tough before coronavirus - and now they fear a second wave or local lockdown could be the "final nail in the coffin".

a group of people walking on a sidewalk: Traders in the West Midlands fear another lockdown © Sky News Screen Grab Traders in the West Midlands fear another lockdown

The borough of Sandwell, which includes West Bromwich, Oldbury, Tipton and Smethwick, is currently in the top 10 of areas in England with the highest rates of infection.

This leaves it in danger of having local restrictions being forced upon it by the government.

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Sandwell's rate of infection rose to 28.1 per 100,000 people in the week up to 27 July, from 26.9 the previous week.

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In the town's market, trade is only just beginning its return to health after the rigours of lockdown and none of the stall holders or shopkeepers want to see a second wave.

Brett Packer has been selling clothes and home furnishings at the market for more than 15 years.

He said trade was already tough before coronavirus.

"It used to be heaving here on a daily basis, Monday to Saturday," he said.

"But this could be the final nail in the coffin. And if we get a second wave that could really devastate the whole area.

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"If they lock down Sandwell and Smethwick, people will drive to Birmingham, they'll drive to Merry Hill. They've got to do their shopping somewhere.

"And the danger is they might not come back."

The council is trying to forestall the sort of government intervention seen in Leicester, Greater Manchester, Blackburn, Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford.

a woman holding a bag of luggage: Brett Packer sells clothes and home furnishings at a market in West Bromwich © Sky News Screen Grab Brett Packer sells clothes and home furnishings at a market in West Bromwich

It held an emergency meeting on Friday, and has issued amended advice to keep the infection rate down.

The council's deputy leader Maria Crompton said: "Nationally, the government has advised people who are shielding they could stop shielding from Friday 31 July, but anyone in Sandwell who is shielding is strongly advised to continue to shield to keep themselves safe.

"We know people are looking forward to going out again. However, we are very strongly advising people who are shielding to stay put for now and go out as little as possible."

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The council has issued the following advice:

  • Continue to shield if you are already shielding
  • Do not go inside other people's houses
  • Get tested and isolate if you have symptoms

The mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has said there are no plans to lock down any boroughs within the region.

But authorities in Sandwell add the caveat that if the new advice is not heeded, more restrictive measures are "highly likely".

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