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Lifting lockdown ‘illogical’ as virus cases rise in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has blasted the easing of coronavirus restrictions in parts of northern England as “completely illogical”.

Measures were lifted overnight in Bolton, Stockport and Trafford despite concerns from some local councils.

Mr Burnham said it meant boroughs with rising cases were restriction-free but others with lower numbers were not.

He urged people in Bolton and Trafford to “continue to follow the guidance” not to have social gatherings at home.

“We find ourselves in a completely unsustainable position”, he said.

Mr Burnham said the restrictions were “always hard to explain to the public but they’re completely illogical now”.

‘Red Zone’

He continued: “Overnight we’ve had restrictions released from two boroughs where we’ve got a rising number of cases – in one case in the red zone – and neighbouring boroughs are still under restrictions but with much lower numbers of cases”.

A Covid spike in Bolton and Trafford prompted council bosses to ask for restrictions to remain in place a day before they were due to be lifted.

Bolton currently has one of the highest rates of new virus cases per 100,000 residents in England.

The measure have also been eased in Burnley, Hyndburn, parts of Bradford excluding Bradford city and Keighley town, parts of Calderdale excluding Halifax and parts of Kirklees excluding Dewsbury and Batley.

According to central government rules, people living in these areas can now:

  • Socialise in groups of up to two households indoors or private gardens
  • Stay overnight at somebody else’s home but must try to social distance
  • Book close contact services such as facials and brow or eyelash treatments
  • Visit bowling alleys, roller rinks, soft play centres and casinos

Daniel Wainwright, BBC Data Unit

The rise in cases in Trafford and Bolton shows how quickly the situation with coronavirus can change.

On Friday the government announced it was easing the localised lockdown restrictions in parts of Greater Manchester from Wednesday.

Pointing to data for the week to 20 August, it said “cases in Bolton and Stockport fell from 25.6 (per 100,000 residents) to 18.9, and 23 to 15.1 respectively, and Trafford fell from 27.1 to 17.8.”

Yet even then, there was concern that the rate was rising. The Labour leader of Trafford Council, Andrew Western, said the more recent data had shown a “slight increase”.

And based on data released on Tuesday evening, Trafford’s rate for the week to 29 August was more than 35 cases per 100,000.

In Bolton it was 59 cases per 100,000, driven in particular by high numbers of cases on 27, 28 and 29 August.

Yet the easing of restrictions has gone ahead and different parts of Greater Manchester have different rules.

Measures were imposed at the end of July amid a rise in cases.

Bolton, Trafford and Stockport have joined Wigan in being allowed to have two households socialise indoors.

In Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury and Tameside it is still banned. In Oldham people are advised not to meet up with other households outdoors as well.

Mr Burnham said he was asking the government to “talk to us today about an exit strategy from this”.

He said blanket restrictions had become less effective so “targeted interventions at a community level” need to be introduced, particularly “door-to-door interventions to do testing, tracing and messaging”.

He also requested financial support to help people self-isolating.

“We are confident that would be much more effective than poorly targeted blanket restrictions,” he said.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with leaders and local authorities across Greater Manchester and Lancashire in response to the changing situation and we keep all local restrictions under constant consideration.”

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