Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

Lockdown in parts of North 'could be relaxed in days'

Local lockdown restrictions in some parts of the North could be lifted as early as this week, the mayor of Greater Manchester has said.

Andy Burnham said the restrictions would be eased where case numbers have dropped but could be tightened even further in the worst-hit areas.

Areas of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire covering some 4.5 million people have been under stricter curbs than the rest of the UK for the past two weeks.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Burnham said the final decision will be announced after the next weekly review of the local lockdowns.

He said: ‘Hopefully, we will begin to see some people getting released. If things stay as they are I think it is likely that we would see a change.

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‘Our cases are flattening – with one exception, Oldham – and we are starting to turn the tide in most of our boroughs. The hope is, maybe we will have a better time ahead of us.’

Greater Manchester’s infection rates, updated on Saturday, showed Oldham had on average 108.4 cases per 100,000 people, with 46.3 for Rochdale, 32.8 for Salford and 31.8 for Tameside.

The UK-wide average is 17.3 per 100,000 people, and the threshold which triggers other countries to be placed on Britain’s quarantine list is 20 per 100,000 people.

Mr Burnham added: ‘I think the blanket approach will start to be undone – certain boroughs where the cases are lower will start to be released.’

He cited Wigan as an example of one area which could be the first to have rules lifted as it has ‘far fewer cases’.

The North’s overall situation is unlikely to ease any time soon, Mr Burnham continued, although he blasted proposals to reimpose ‘profoundly damaging’ full lockdowns on areas with the highest infection rates.

The mayor argued in favour of a ‘more sophisticated’ approach of ‘putting more resources’ into such areas.

The local restrictions banned people from mixing with other households in homes or gardens, apart from within defined ‘support bubbles’.

They were also left out of the latest round of relaxations introduced for the rest of England last week, permitting for wedding receptions with up to 30 guests and allowing bowling alleys, casinos and more beauty services to reopen.

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