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Government 'won't hesitate' to act in London as Manchester declares major incident
3 August 2020, 06:55
Business minister Nadim Zahawi has told LBC the Government "will not hesitate to act" should there be a spike in cases in London, following reports the M25 could be locked down.
A rise in Covid-19 infections has led to a major incident being declared in Greater Manchester just as the Chancellor's meal-deal scheme - aimed at encouraging Brits to go out more - gets underway.
The news has come as some parts of the UK start to open up with restrictions in Wales being relaxed on Monday, and as a new test for detecting coronavirus is launched.
Residents have been urged to stay calm after public service leaders increased readiness as they seek to tackle growing coronavirus transmission rates in the region.
"People should not be alarmed that a major incident has been declared," Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of Manchester City Council said.
The Labour politician described the move "standard practice for complex situations" and said it would allow a "central command structure" to be created to enable agencies to "draw on extra resources".
On Monday morning Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that the Government won't rule out further lockdowns.
He told Tom Swarbrick the Government is "constantly" looking at how the virus is behaving. He warned if "we see the virus spreading in a particular way in London, as we've seen in Manchester and West Yorkshire," then "we will not hesitate to act."
The Times reported the Prime Minister held a "war game" session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options in the event of a second wave of infections, measures that are said to include lockdown-like conditions for London, with the M25 acting as a barrier around the capital.
Out of the top 20 worst affected local authority areas for Covid-19 infections in England, Greater Manchester boroughs - home to almost 3 million people - comprise more than a third of the list, with seven entries.
Oldham, the second-worst impacted borough in the country, recorded a seven-day infection rate rise from 41.6 to 62.8 per 100,000 people, with 148 new cases reported in the past week.
It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak heralded the start of the Treasury's Eat Out to Help Out scheme - an offer of half-price meals during August in order to entice people out of their stay-at-home lockdown habits and into restaurants and pubs again after the hospitality sector was badly hit by the pandemic.
Some 80 per cent of hospitality firms stopped trading in April, with 1.4 million workers furloughed - the highest of any sector - according to Government data.
The incentive will reduce bills by 50 per cent for all eat-in meals ordered between Monday and Wednesday this month at 72,000 participating establishments, including chains such as McDonalds, Nando's and Prezzo.
The discount per person will be capped at £10 and does not apply to alcohol.
Mr Sunak said: "Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme's number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door.
"The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it's been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support - we'll pay half."
Monday will also mark the first working day of the week from which the Prime Minister's new guidance applies, advising employees to return to their place of work where it has been made Covid secure and their employer agrees it is necessary.
According to reports, however, the regular outings being espoused by the Treasury and Downing Street could be curtailed in a matter of months under so-called "nuclear deterrent" plans under consideration by the Government to avoid a second national lockdown.
The Daily Telegraph says Boris Johnson is expected to order doctors to offer tailored advice this autumn to anyone over 50 who is obese, overweight or in ill health, warning them they are at increased risk from Covid and advising them to stay at home during the winter in the most serious cases.
Using a grading system, those less at risk could be told to reduce social contact, shop during hours designated for those shielding, or avoid public transport, the paper said.
As we reported earlier, two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu - and promise results in 90 minutes - are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories in a development which could ease the pressure on the NHS during the coming winter.
The swab and DNA tests will enable clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said.
Almost half a million new LamPORE swab tests will be available from next week across adult care settings and laboratories.