Illegal party organisers fined £70,000 as city goes on watchlist

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Seven £10,000 fines were issued to organisers of illegal raves in Leeds last weekend, the city’s council leader has said.

Judith Blake told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that the council had “fully expected” Leeds to be put on the Government’s Covid-19 watchlist as an “area of concern” due to an increase in cases.

She said: “We have been monitoring our number every single day and we recognise that the numbers have been creeping up, so we fully expected to be on the list to become an area of concern.

“We feel there is a bit of a complacency coming in. What we are seeing is the numbers are changing, and actually more young people are testing positive and they are spread around the city.”

She added: “Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in house parties, but we are working with police.

“Last weekend we issued, with the police, seven of the £10,000 fines for organisers of illegal raves.”

Leeds has been added to the list of Public Health England’s “areas of concern” following a rise in coronavirus cases.

Patrons of the city’s normally bustling nightlife venues have been urged to play their part in keeping themselves and others safe ahead of the weekend, and therefore avoid the need for tougher restrictions to be brought in.

The latest infection rates reached 32.5 cases per 100,000 people, with a positivity rate on testing of 3.5%.

That tipped Public Health England to add Leeds to its weekly watch-list of areas of concern.

The city council said many of the cases are in different areas, meaning they may be linked to social interaction and leisure activities.

It said the spread is “broad and changeable across wards”, with increasing numbers detected in young people aged 18-34, sparking concerns over close-contact activities like house parties.

The council said being on the PHE list did not mean more restrictions will be brought in immediately, but it did mean increased monitoring of cases and potential additional steps if the infection rate did not start to fall.

Councillor Blake said: “We have been working tirelessly with our partners and communities, doing everything within our power to keep the spread of this virus under control and to ensure Leeds stays open.

“However, we can’t accomplish that alone and this rise in infection rates means that inevitably, our window of opportunity is shrinking by the day and the city is rapidly approaching a tipping point.

“We completely understand that these past six months have put a tremendous strain on everyone in Leeds and that being able to get out, socialise and enjoy ourselves has provided a massive lift.

“But it is absolutely crucial that if we want to continue to do that, we all do it sensibly and responsibly and follow the latest guidance which is there to keep us all safe.”

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health said: “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of collective determination from people in Leeds to keep their city and each other safe through this crisis.

“Now it’s more important than ever that we all dig deep and do what we can to reverse this upward trend in our infection rates and curtail the spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, the elected mayor of Middlesbrough has made an urgent plea to local people to do their bit as the town’s infection rate rose to around 39 per 100,000.

Andy Preston said: “Let me be straight, this isn’t scaremongering. Everyone must act now.

“This week we’ve urged people in the strongest terms that they need to take urgent action for the good of Middlesbrough.

“Now we’re in the national spotlight it should be crystal clear how serious this is.

“We are out there every day spreading the word – telling businesses and individuals to follow the guidelines that will keep us all safe.

“We’re going to go further still to try and avoid a local lockdown and protect jobs.”



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