Greater Manchester refuses 'fundamentally flawed' tier 3 lockdown
Local leaders in Greater Manchester have come together to slam the Government’s ‘fundamentally flawed’ three tier coronavirus plan and back Labour’s call for a national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown.
A joint statement from 12 key local politicians — including Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Deputy Mayors and all ten local council leaders — branded the possibility of the region being put under tier three restrictions ‘unacceptable’ without more financial support.
The ‘unified’ intervention comes as discussions continue over whether the region and Lancashire should be put under harsher tier three restrictions, alongside the Liverpool City Region, in response to rising Covid-19 infection rates.
The statement, published on Wednesday, reads: ‘A number of Leaders in Greater Manchester believe a national circuit break, with the required financial support would be a preferable option. This would create the conditions for a re-set of the Test and Trace service into a more locally-controlled operation which, with cases driven down to a lower level, would be more likely to succeed.’
It follows a dramatic change of tack from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Tuesday, when he criticised the Government’s approach and called for a two to three week national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown. That came after Boris Johnson rejected the advice of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which called for a circuit-breaker on September 21.
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All of the Greater Manchester leaders who signed the statement are Labour politicians, except the Tory leader of Bolton council.
But, in Lancashire, the council chief has said the extra tier three restrictions are ‘inevitable’.
Conservative county council leader Geoff Driver warned hospital admissions would reach the level they were at the height of the first wave within three weeks if measures were not brought in.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘With the high rates of infection in most parts of the county area it’s inevitable we’re going to move into Tier 3.
‘It’s really a question of when and how, and we’re working with Government trying to put together a package of measures that will mitigate the inevitable impact on that particular sector of the economy.’
But the leaders in Greater Manchester said the evidence did not support placing the region into a higher tier for two reasons.
Citing case numbers and hospital admissions, they said: ‘First, the evidence does not currently support it.
‘Second, the financial package accompanying Tier 3 is nowhere near sufficient to prevent severe hardship, widespread job losses and business failure.’
The infection rate in the Liverpool City Region is 488 cases per 100,000 people, with 7,609 cases recorded in the seven days to October 10.
In Greater Manchester the rate is 357.6 per 100,000, with 10,140 new cases reported, and in the county of Lancashire the rate is 310.7 per 100,000, with 4,689 cases recorded in the week up to October 10.
The statement continued: ‘If the Government pursues its current strategy, we believe it will leave large parts of the north of England trapped in Tier 3 for much of the winter with all the damage that will do.’
Property adviser Altus Group said 3,096 pubs and bars, 375 betting shops, 475 gyms and 15 casinos would close if Greater Manchester and Lancashire were subject to the stricter restrictions.
The local leaders said they agreed with the ‘principle’ of having tiers of restrictions but said they wanted a furlough scheme of ‘at least 80%’ offered to businesses forced to shut.
They also criticised the government for not offering a ‘substantive response’ to a letter they sent outlining their approach and for not telling them directly that the region would be placed under tier two restrictions.
The local leaders who signed the letter are Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, his two Deputy Mayors and the leaders of councils for Manchester City, Rochdale, Salford City, Oldham, Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Tameside, Trafford and Stockport.
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