Andy Burnham calls for 'surge vaccinations' in the North West as Delta variant spreads

8 June 2021, 16:54 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 07:35

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Leaders in the North West have welcomed extra Covid-19 support amid a rise in new cases but there are calls for surge vaccination in more areas where the Delta variant is spreading fast.

The Government will send more resources to Greater Manchester and Lancashire, among other parts of England, in a bid to bring the number of new infections under control.

Surge Rapid Response Teams and the military can now be called on to support surge testing and other measures to try and keep the lid on the virus.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he welcomed the new package of support from ministers announced on Tuesday but wanted to see the region's supply of vaccines brought forward for surge vaccination.

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"We are not asking for any more vaccine here than our fair share," he said.

"What we are asking for is the bringing forward of Greater Manchester supplies so that we can run a surge vaccination programme in areas that are the higher case areas so that we can get vaccine take up over and above 85% in those areas.

"We believe we are able to do that with the resources being offered and we call on the Government to work with us on that."

Andy Burnham has called for surge vaccinations in more areas to tackle the Delta variant
Andy Burnham has called for surge vaccinations in more areas to tackle the Delta variant. Picture: PA Images
Greater Manchester and Lancashire residents are being urged to take extra caution
Greater Manchester and Lancashire residents are being urged to take extra caution. Picture: PA Images

Residents across all boroughs in Lancashire and Greater Manchester - joining Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester City, Hounslow and North Tyneside - are being urged to limit travel outside their areas to avoid spreading the Delta variant, which has been found to be 40% more transmissible.

Mr Burnham said it was "very important to keep a sense of proportion" about the announcement following confusion about whether the new guidance amounted to a travel ban.

He said: "This is guidance, it is advice to the public. It is not a lockdown. It is not a ban... this is not about telling people to cancel their plans, it is about asking them to be careful in setting any new ones, to minimise non-essential travel."

He added it was a "sensible approach given the rise in cases that we've seen" and that he was grateful to Health Secretary Matt Hancock for the "joint approach that has been taken to date".

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Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire County Council, said cases were continuing to rise at a "worrying pace".

He said: "Over the past three weeks, additional surge testing and vaccinations have been undertaken in Burnley, and we have been pushing for this to be rolled out across the county.

"The Government has listened to our calls and has now agreed to provide Lancashire with enhanced support, which gives us more flexibility to fight this new wave of infections.

"As such, asymptomatic PCR testing will be opened up to everyone in Lancashire. Improving vaccination uptake is also going to be a crucial element in our efforts to contain this latest wave."

Announcing new support measures in the Commons, Mr Hancock told MPs: "I can tell the House that today, working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support based on what is working in Bolton to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we are seeing there.

"This includes rapid response teams, putting in extra testing, military support and supervised in school testing. I want to encourage everyone in Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer.

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"We know that this approach can work, we've seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases.

"This is the next stage of tackling the pandemic in Manchester and in Lancashire, and of course it's vital that people in these areas - as everywhere else - come forward and get the jab as soon as they're eligible because that is our way out of this pandemic together."

Following the announcement, Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "We want to provide the package of support that has been effective in Bolton to a wider area ... to tackle the cases of the Delta variant."