CHESHIRE West and Chester Council leader Louise Gittins says banning households from mixing is the "best option" for tackling a "rapid increase" in coronavirus cases in the borough.

Cllr Gittins has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to ask the Government to consider introducing additional restrictions in the area that would prevent different households from meeting up in homes or gardens, with some exceptions set out in law.

She says the proposed action has been made with a "heavy heart" and understands the impact it will have on some residents' wellbeing, but adds that it is the best course of action for the borough, which is currently on the Government watchlist as an area of concern.

Local lockdown restrictions have already been introduced in Merseyside, Halton and Warrington, while The Welsh Government is set to implement additional measures in neighbouring areas across the border this evening (October 1).

Although Cheshire West and Chester has kept infection rates lower than many other areas across the north of England, the most recent data shows a weekly infection rate of more than 60 per 100,000 – representing a doubling of the rate over two weeks.

The Government will make the final decision on whether to implement the restrictions and discussions are underway with officials.

The council says a timeframe for a decision unclear, but residents will be informed of developments at the earliest possible opportunity.

Cllr Gittins said: "We are proud of the response to the pandemic by our residents, who have made an inspiring commitment to fight this virus across west Cheshire.

"This has helped to contain levels of infection in west Cheshire at below the levels experienced in other parts of the north.

"However, concerning data indicates a rapid increase in infections and more vulnerable people being infected. Many infections are being caused by households mixing.

"People are more comfortable in their own homes with family and friends, but people aren’t safe in those situations as the mixing of households is spreading the virus. Some who have Covid-19 do not have symptoms but could still pass it on to someone else who could go on to develop more lethal complications.

"We propose these decisive actions with a heavy heart. We recognise that further measures will have a negative impact on the wellbeing of many of the people affected by them, so they shouldn’t be considered lightly.

"But, by acting now rather than later, they would address some of the most frequent causes of transmission of Covid-19, by limiting the virus’s ability to pass between different households.

"Evidence from cases within our area suggests that, by limiting transmission in the wider community, this will then help take pressure off our schools, NHS, care settings and key workers.

"These measures come at a significant local cost, and we will bring proposals forward in partnership with neighbouring councils to ensure they are fully funded across our sub-region, alongside measures to support businesses that will be adversely affected.

"We realise the challenges caused by new restrictions but feel it is the best option to tackle this virus at this point in the pandemic."

On September 28, the borough’s Outbreak Management Board – a cross party group, with representation from business, NHS, schools and community organisations – assessed the latest rapid increase in Covid-19 cases.

The board concluded that, by taking further action now, it may be possible to avoid significant additional pressure on local health and care services and more restrictive lockdown measures in the future.

The council is continuing to work closely with neighbouring authorities, to ensure consistency of approach and to prevent, as far as possible, different rules from applying between different council areas, and continue to put the case for more resources, more testing and more local contact tracing.

It has enhanced its support for the most vulnerable people, ensuring that those who are isolated and need help are supported. Extensive measures are also in place to protect residents of care homes.