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Three West Midlands areas will be locked down from Tuesday

Households will be banned from meeting each other in Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull from Tuesday.

The order from the Department of Health was announced at a news conference by the West Midlands Combined Authority, however restrictions don't stretch as far as households who are part of Dudley Borough, which continues to have the lowest number of cases in the Black Country. 

COVID-19 infections in Birmingham have been increasing - and there are also concerns about the rising number of cases nationally. According to NHS Digital data, the latest seven-day rate for Birmingham to 8 September showed 78.2 cases per 100,000 with 892 cases over the period - among the highest in the city since April's peak. For the previous seven-day period, the rate was just over 30.

The city of 1.14 million had already been moved up the national Public Health England watchlist, which ranks local authority areas of concern by infection rate. Birmingham was deemed an area in need of "enhanced support" last month, after recording a seven-day infection rate above 30 per 100,000 people. Of particular concern to health chiefs has been the daily rise in the infection rate.

In response, Birmingham City Council ramped up measures - agreed with the government - including a legally enforced crackdown on businesses breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

The city's director of public health Dr Justin Varney said the increase was "linked primarily to private household gatherings" at the end of August and during the bank holiday weekend. An increase in testing had also turned up more positive results, he added.

Licensed premises, like pubs and bars, and restaurants flouting contact-tracing rules and social distancing, are also believed to be part of the problem behind rising rates. The mayor also said younger people "had got to take responsibility" with the biggest growth in age groups under 40.

The current positive infections tally puts Birmingham third in a national table of local authority areas of highest infection rates, behind Bolton and Sunderland. Bolton's seven-day rate currently stands at 143 cases per 100,000, and Sunderland is on 84, according to data from NHS Digital.

Solihull's latest infection rate for the week ending 8 September stands at 62.8. Previous seven-day data showed other cities recording sharp increases in their weekly rate, including Salford, Manchester and Liverpool.

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