Merseyside placed on government's coronavirus watchlist after "rapid increase" in cases

  • Video report by Andrew Fletcher

Public health officials have warned that Liverpool faces the prospect of a local lockdown as Merseyside was placed on the government's "areas of concern" list.

The number of confirmed cases in Liverpool has doubled in the last seven days with 303 people testing positive, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said that the increase in cases across the whole city region had been "rapid".

Liverpool's Director of Public Health said that the next few days are "critical" for Merseyside.

People are being urged to follow social distancing, wash their hands regularly and get tested if they have symptoms.

People in England will not be allowed to socialise in groups larger than six from Monday.

People are being encouraged to get tested if they are showing symptoms. Credit: ITV News

Director of Public Health Matt Ashton said: "This is a wake-up call – cases have risen four-fold in just 14 days and if that growth continues at this rate we are going to be in a very, very serious position again before we know it.

"The next few days are absolutely critical if we are to avoid an escalation and the possibility of the type of measures that we have seen in other areas of the country when cases have risen.

"Around 60 per cent of the cases are in under 40s and the very real and present danger is that they spread the disease to older people and we start to see hospitalisation of vulnerable people."

He added: "I am asking people to cast their minds back to March and remember how quickly case numbers rose and the devastating impact that had on all of us, our families, our city, and the NHS.

"We all have a part to play here and by working together we still have a chance of avoiding enhanced measures across the city."

Liverpool City Council have said they will be increasing venue checks across the city to ensure places are abiding by Covid-19 regulations.

Steve Rotheram said: "Over the past week we have seen a rapid increase in Coronavirus cases across the Liverpool City Region.

"We are not yet at the stage of having extra restrictions imposed on us - as other areas have - but, if we continue on our current trajectory, it will become a case of when, not if this happens."

Sefton Council leader Ian Maher said: "It's essential that every single one of Sefton's residents and businesses continue the great efforts they have made already to prevent us going into lockdown."

The leader of Knowsley Council, Councillor Graham Morgan, said

I don't think that our younger generation is solely the reason for the increase in cases. I have seen people of all ages flouting the rules and we have also had people raising concerns with the council about some businesses not taking responsibility for the safety of their customers. The simple fact is that this has to stop. We all have a part to play and now we need to play it.

Sue Forster, director of public health for St Helens, said: "We have seen how Bolton in the space of two weeks has gone from having restrictions due to be removed to the imposed closure of bars and restaurants and a ban on mixing with other households.

"We do not want St Helens borough to follow this path because the consequences could be devastating not just on people's health but also our economy as it takes its steps to recover from the initial national lockdown." 

The latest weekly rate of COVID-19 in Liverpool is now around 50 cases per 100,000 people.

The borough of Halton has not been put on the government's watch-list.