Nottingham is braced to head into England’s strictest lockdown measures as hospitals in the city postponed non-urgent surgery and appointments amid a surge in coronavirus patients.
A meeting to talk about the conditions of the city’s move to tier 3 was due to take place between the government and Nottingham’s city and county council leaders on Thursday afternoon, almost a week after a previously planned discussion was scrapped. However there was anger over the “insulting” decision to exclude local MPs from discussions.
The city, which has the second-highest rate of coronavirus in the country, is expected to be moved to tier 3 alongside the Nottinghamshire boroughs of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced earlier on Thursday that hundreds of thousands of people in Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough would move into tier 2 from Saturday following surges in Covid-19 rates.
The move will bring the total number of people living in areas under high and very high Covid restrictions to 29 million, equating to 38.6% of the population living under tier 2 conditions and 13% under tier 3 by the weekend.
On Thursday night, Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust, said in a statement: “We have made the difficult decision to postpone some of our non-urgent surgery and appointments until 6 November 2020 following a dramatic increase in the number of patients with Covid-19 in our hospital. Over the last few days we have exceeded 200 patients with the virus in the hospital, and every day this is increasing by nearly another full ward of people.
“Some of these patients, 16 at the time of writing, are sadly very unwell and receiving treatment by our critical care staff. Some more have also died with the virus in the last few days. This surge is now at levels similar to April and is combining with our normal winter emergency pressures. Unfortunately, this means that we’ve had to make this difficult decision to pause some of the treatment we offer.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Nottingham city council leader, David Mellen, and the Nottinghamshire county council leader, Kay Cutts, confirmed that they had received invitations to attend an “introductory meeting”, which is understood to have been scheduled for 4.30pm with the housing minister, Christopher Pincher.
A previously arranged meeting between the health minister, Nadine Dorries, and Nottingham city MPs was cancelled at short notice last Friday, and leaders in the area said conversations with the government about moving the area to the very high Covid alert level had not taken place since, despite Boris Johnson claiming on Tuesday that they were ongoing.
Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, said MPs had not been invited to take part in the discussion on Thursday. “It’s just so insulting. We’ve got constituents who are rightly concerned about their livelihoods and the spread of the virus,” she said.
“We’ve been standing up in the Commons at every opportunity asking the government what financial help is going to be provided, when we’ll have details of going into tier 3, asking them why there have been these delays, and we just get stonewalled.”
Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, described the decision as “disrespectful”. She added: “I find it baffling that they want to keep MPs out of these discussions. Obviously, we will want to have details of what their plan is, what they think it will achieve, how long they think we would need to be in tier 3, and what the criteria is for coming out.”
Nottingham’s coronavirus rate is second only to Knowsley in England, with 639.5 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 16 October. Although an initial surge in infections in the city was concentrated in areas surrounding its two university campuses, cases are now falling in the city and rising in all but one of the county’s boroughs.
Both Mellen and Whittome suggested that delays to more stringent measures had contributed to the spilling over of cases into non-student areas. In Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe, the rate of infection has risen to more than 300 cases per 100,000 people.
Although it is not yet known when an announcement of the new restrictions could be made, Mellen said on Wednesday it had been suggested by government officials that they were unlikely to be imposed on the affected areas of Nottingham until Monday at the earliest.