A SURGE in coronavirus cases across all age groups leading to ‘overwhelming’ pressure being placed on Barnsley Hospital will result in the town entering a second local lockdown for a minimum of four weeks from midnight - and revellers have been urged to avoid one last party before pubs close.

The escalation from tier two to three, announced on Wednesday, bans residents from socialising with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting, unless they have formed a support bubble.

All of the borough’s pubs and bars must close unless they are serving meals although a £41m financial package has been secured for South Yorkshire as a whole to help cash-strapped businesses through the coming weeks.

Mayor of Sheffield City Region and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said: “We all recognise the gravity of the situation and have taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives, livelihoods and protect our NHS.
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“The number of people with Covid-19 in our hospitals has doubled over the last ten days, with no signs this will relent over the coming weeks.

“Inaction was not an option - we called on the government to offer a local lockdown lifeline for our local authorities and economy, and the new restrictions will be introduced alongside resources which mean we are better equipped to control the virus and limit some of the damage on jobs and businesses.

“If these new restrictions are effective, individual local authorities will be able to move to lower alert levels as soon as it is safe to do so, in consultation with fellow local leaders, myself and the government.

“However, to reach that point as quickly as possible, it’s critical people follow the new restrictions as soon as they are in place.

“NHS staff have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to keep us all safe. We owe it to them to ease the pressure ahead of the toughest winter our health service will ever face.”

The total funding available to South Yorkshire agreed with the government for the new restrictions is £41m, including £30m to support the region’s businesses, and £11m for local authorities to support public health measures such as NHS Test and Trace to stop the spread of the virus.

Additional closures will include betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and kids’ soft play centres, but gyms will remain open.

Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton described the town’s plight as a ‘severe situation’ and urged the town’s residents to show common sense tonight amid fears non-food-serving pubs were encouraging punters to turn up for a final party.

He added: “The last thing we want is for people to view tonight as one last chance to descend on bars - we want to be out of tier three as soon as possible but residents need to play their part and show common sense.

“Barnsley cases are spreading from young to old, putting more lives in danger, leading to more people in our hospital, more people becoming seriously ill, and sadly more people dying.

“We must act now to save lives and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed.

“I appreciate it has been challenging, but we need to pull together and double our efforts to get us through this pandemic. These restrictions will be reviewed at the end of the four-week period.”

Latest figures up to Wednesday show the current seven-day rate of the virus, per 100,000 people, is 355.

For context, the week ending September 27 saw Barnsley’s cases at 76.6 per 100,000, but just a week later the cases were at 141.4 per 100,000 in the borough, meaning the rate has more than quadrupled in recent weeks.

Public health boss Julia Burrows said: “Around 875 people are becoming infected with Covid-19 in Barnsley every week.

“While national reports have been emphasising the rise in cases in younger adults, particularly students, this doesn’t reflect the situation in Barnsley.

“We are seeing around 215 people aged 60 years and older getting infected in the borough each week. This is serious the situation is rapidly escalating and infection rates are spreading from young to working-age adults and also older people, affecting our most vulnerable residents.

“As many of us feared since we started seeing the numbers increase again, they are translating to a rise in hospital admissions, including to intensive care, causing significant pressure in our hospital.

“Tragically, since the beginning of October, there has been a rise in the number of Barnsley people dying as a result of the virus.”