Andy Burnham tells Bolton and Trafford to ignore 'illogical' lifting of lockdown

2 September 2020, 10:16

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has told residents in Bolton and Trafford to ignore the lifting of lockdown restrictions
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has told residents in Bolton and Trafford to ignore the lifting of lockdown restrictions. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has told residents in Bolton and Trafford to ignore the "completely illogical" lifting of lockdown restrictions.

The Government lifted restrictions on households mixing at midnight, despite pleas from council leaders to keep the rules in place following a spike in cases.

The leaders said they had been "completely ignored" by the Government as Bolton was announced the second worst affected area in the UK, with the number of new Covid-19 infections surging last week.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Burnham told reporters: "We find ourselves at a completely unsustainable position this morning - that's the politest way I can put it.

"Overnight we've had restrictions released in 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.

"These restrictions were always hard to explain to the public but they are completely illogical now."

The latest infection rate in borough, announced yesterday, was 59.1 per 100,000 people - overtaking Oldham's rate of 56.5 and significantly higher than England's average of 12.7.

Similarly, the rate in Trafford has also risen, from 19.4 to 35.4, with 84 new cases.

Social gatherings between two homes can resume for the first time in weeks in the two boroughs as well as Stockport, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

Residents in Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside and Oldham, however, will remain under the local restrictions despite having lower infection rates than Bolton.

Bury, which sits next to Bolton, has an infection rate of 25.7 - less than half that of its neighbour.

Read more: Coronavirus: PM warns 'more wretched COVID' to come - but says government can deal with outbreaks

The decision to lift restrictions was backed by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers and MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who told the Manchester Evening News last week that he found it "odd" for Trafford Council to object.

Labour council leader Andrew Western had written to health secretary Matt Hancock to "urgently request clarity" on the Government's position on Trafford.

In his letter, Mr Western slammed the Government for causing "chaos and confusion" in lifting local lockdown in Trafford where the infection rate is "significantly higher" than in other Greater Manchester boroughs that still have restrictions in place.

"The proposed arrangements now make little sense," he said.

"The system has been undermined by the Government's decision-making processes."

He added he was "very disappointed" that please to Government from local leaders last week were "completely ignored" along with "two of our three local MPs, two of our three opposition group leaders and our director of public health".

Several boroughs in Greater Manchester will remain in lockdown despite higher infection rates elsewhere
Several boroughs in Greater Manchester will remain in lockdown despite higher infection rates elsewhere. Picture: PA Images

In Bolton, analysis by the town's council shows that new cases were spread across the borough and not limited to a single area, community, or place of work.

Infections between different households appear to be the main cause of the spike, with people aged 18-49 representing the overwhelming majority of new cases, it added.

Read more: Government to launch return to workplace campaign this week

On Tuesday, the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, David Greenhalgh, said: "We urged the Government to lift Bolton out of the additional restrictions at a time when infection rates were low.

"This was the right decision at the time.

"However, there has been a sudden and unforeseeable rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Bolton.

"We have always been led by the data, which means we have no choice but to act quickly to keep everyone safe."

Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is made up of the 10 councils and Mr Burnham, has called on the Government to agree on an exit strategy from the local restrictions on household gatherings "as soon as safely possible".

In Greater Manchester, restrictions are still in place in Manchester, Oldham Rochdale, Bury, Tameside, Salford.

In Lancashire, restrictions in Preston, Pendle and Blackburn will continue as well as parts of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale in West Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, Leicester residents are still banned from visiting others in their homes or gardens.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson 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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