Andy Burnham calls for coronavirus shielding to be reimposed in Greater Manchester today

2 August 2020, 15:28

Andy Burnham has slammed the decision to pause shielding in Greater Manchester
Andy Burnham has slammed the decision to pause shielding in Greater Manchester. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Andy Burnham has called on the Government to reimpose shielding for vulnerable people in parts of the North West.

The mayor of Greater Manchester slammed the decision to pause shielding in the county - just days after new restrictions came into force due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

He claims it has left people feeling "confused and fearful" and called for an immediate reversal of the policy.

When asked by a constituent to explain why her vulnerable sister-in-law was being made to stop shielding and return to work at Salford Royal Hospital, Mr Burnham said he couldn't.

It follows a spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the county, with Oldham, Rochdale and Trafford reporting figures that have alarmed officials.

The shielding policy was lifted on Saturday for all areas in England with the exception of some Covid-19 hotspots, including Leicester and surrounding areas, Luton and Blackburn with Darwen.

Director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen, professor Dominic Harrison, praised the government earlier this week for extending shielding in the borough and said it would help prevent further spread of the virus.

“To support our actions, the government announced that further easing measures are being postponed, including the advice for people who have been shielding," he said.

"We need to keep up the momentum with our strong prevention work so we agree it's sensible not to relax the easing of restrictions."

Asked whether the shielding policy would change today, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson pointed people to the current advice.

Guidance on the Government's website reads: "For those living in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, the Government and relevant local authorities are acting together in a preventative approach to control the spread of the virus and to stop transmission from increasing further.

"At this stage our advice is that those living in these areas no longer need to shield from 1 August in line with national guidance (with the exception of Blackburn with Darwen)."

Andy Burnham claims the decision to pause shielding in Greater Manchester has confused and scared people
Andy Burnham claims the decision to pause shielding in Greater Manchester has confused and scared people. Picture: PA Images

Elsewhere in the North of England, areas in West Yorkshire and most of East Lancashire have been asked to follow the new restrictions on having friends and family round each others' homes and meeting at indoor public spaces.

Explaining the decision to ease shielding, deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries said last month: "Shielding was introduced to safeguard those who, at the start of the epidemic in the UK, were thought to be most clinically vulnerable in our communities.

"We know how difficult this period has been and the impact shielding has had on many people’s mental health.

"The prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced, so we believe it is the right time to relax some of the advice so people can start to regain a degree of normality once more in their daily lives."

Clinically vulnerable people, which includes transplant recipients, people with specific cancers, conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.