Andy Burnham joins calls for emergency Cobra meeting as 'matter of urgency'

20 September 2020, 17:54

Andy Burnham has called on the Government to reconvene Cobra
Andy Burnham has called on the Government to reconvene Cobra. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Mayor of Greater Manchester is calling on the Government to reconvene Cobra as a "matter of urgency" after a surge in coronavirus cases.

Andy Burnham said the meeting needed places for all the English regions alongside London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the country struggles the contain the outbreak.

He told Swarbrick on Sunday on LBC the North of England is experiencing the highest number of cases and warned the Government needs to find strategies other than local restrictions to get the situation under control.

"We've been under restrictions for some weeks now, unlike London, and our experience would be that maybe they have some impact, but I think sometimes it's overemphasised the amount of impact these measures have," he said.

Read more: Pressure on Boris Johnson to hold emergency meeting as Covid fears deepen

He reiterated his offer to the Government to provide more resources to support contact tracing, which he said "clearly isn't working properly".

"I've got Greater Manchester Police and fire service willing to put forward frontline staff to help get in touch with people who need to isolate," he added.

It follows a spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the North of England and calls on the Government from other politicians to reconvene Cobra.

Earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted to LBC that he has not spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson since he last held a Cobra meeting at the beginning of May.

The First Minister of Wales yesterday called on the Prime Minister to offer "proper engagement with the devolved governments of the United Kingdom".

Mark Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff there had only been "one brief phone call" with Mr Johnson since 28 May, which he described as "simply unacceptable".

He highlighted tighter restrictions in the North West of England, as well as speculation that Mr Johnson is considering a national two-week lockdown, and issues with the Lighthouse Lab testing system.

"All of these issues need to be discussed at a UK level by the four governments, working together, but as far too often in this crisis that opportunity has not been there," Mr Drakeford said.

Read more: Boris Johnson brings in £10,000 fines for failing to self-isolate

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of local lockdowns.

Professor Neil Ferguson has said the Government needs to develop a set of "sustainable" coronavirus restrictions if it wants to avoid repeated lockdowns.

"You can lock down and then completely relax and then lock down again," he told reporters.

"My own view is at the moment a temporary lockdown - it wouldn't be like it was in March, it would be less restrictive than that - would pull down infection numbers to allow the testing system to cope a bit better.

"But I think actually what we want is to have a set of sustainable measures through until we have a vaccine, not go through this cycle again."