Covid infections decreasing overall but rising in elderly, claims council chief

Leeds is seeing its overall rate of Covid infections decrease, but hospitalisations are rising due to an increase in infections among older people.
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That’s according to Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan, who said West Yorkshire would remain in the government’s “tier 2” regulations for the time being.

The leader of the council also denied any discussions had taken place this week with Government ministers regarding Leeds’s lockdown status, following on from talks which led to tier 3 restrictions being imposed in South Yorkshire today.

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Mr Riordan told a meeting of the authority’s Executive Board that the infection rate was now at 373 per 100,000, adding: “It has been stabilising and reducing over the last few weeks. It could creep back up or down over the next few days.

Leeds has been under tier 2 lockdown for just over a week.Leeds has been under tier 2 lockdown for just over a week.
Leeds has been under tier 2 lockdown for just over a week.

“The rate in people over 59 (years old) is increasing – it is not increasing at an exponential rate, but it is edging up – the case rate in younger people is reducing.

“Hospitalisations are increasing but not at a rate that is overwhelming the NHS. This has kept us in Tier 2 at the moment.

“But it is very much a watching brief.”

He added many businesses had told the council the 10pm curfew “wasn’t the easiest to manage”, claiming: “The key issue for us is if we stay in tier 2 or move into tier 3. Tier 3 would bring extra restrictions on pubs and bars and potential restrictions on gyms, public libraries and non-essential retail.”

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Following Government introduction of Covid tier 3 restrictions in Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire, the Government today confirmed that south Yorkshire authorities, including Sheffield, would also enter the highest restrictions.

But Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said no such discussions had taken place between Government and West Yorkshire authorities this week.

She said: “I want to stress we haven’t had conversations with ministers, despite the suggestion with national politicians that we have.

“We had a meeting that was chaired by Luke Hall last Friday, who has taken over from Simon Clark as the regions minister. We were exchanging discussions about public health statistics.

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“There was a suggestion that we might have had a meeting with the (secretary of state for local government) yesterday, but that didn’t take place.

“There was a discussion with chief executives and officials. The outcome of those discussions is that West Yorkshire authorities remain in tier 2.”

Deputy leader of the council’s Conservatives group Coun Alan Lamb suggested that the council had, in fact, been in contact with the Government, and that Coun Blake “personally had one-to-one meetings” with health secretary Matt Hancock.

Coun Blake responded: “The point is about meetings with the leaders of the councils – from my point of view, the decision-makers are the leaders of the councils reflecting the councils themselves.

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“There is a big difference between that and officials talking to officials.

“I had two telephone conversations with Matt Hancock – is that what you are classing as a meeting?

She added three West Yorkshire local authorities had restrictions in place for more than 10 weeks, and they were “not seeing the desired impact”.

On support for businesses in lockdown Coun Lamb, who also works as a pub landlord said: “I am the only person on this call who is running a business and is in the hospitality sector.

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“Our group and (Conservative) MPs are lobbying as well – we are making the points strongly as well. We have seen unedifying scenes of some people playing politics with this week. We need to make a case for things we need as a council.

“Tier 2 is not a nice place to be – the ask is that people stay away and the support is not forthcoming.”