Greater Manchester leaders welcome new support package for region to tackle rising Covid-19 cases

Chiefs in the city-region are asking people to be cautious but stressing the new advice for the area does not constitute any kind of local lockdown.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon that he was grateful to health secretary Matt Hancock for the enhanced measures being rolled out across the city-region, including in Wigan.

The other nine boroughs in Greater Manchester will now have the same level of help that Bolton has received in recent weeks after a surge in cases there.

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Health secretary Matt Hancock announces more Covid-19 help for Wigan
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

Mr Burnham said he welcomed Greater Manchester being made an "enhanced response area" and said the experience of Bolton, where cases are now falling quite rapidly, made him confident that the measures would be successful in bringing the situation under control.

However, he also asked ministers to help bring forward enough vaccine supply to allow the region to run a surge programme over the next few weeks, particularly targeting areas where take-up is currently lower.

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Mr Burnham also stressed that even though residents in the area are now being advised to minimise travel, this is guidance and does not mean regional or local restrictions are being put in place.

He said: "We've been in discussion with the Government over the last few days and I'm grateful to the health secretary and other colleagues for the joint approach and the support offered.

"It is important to keep a sense of proportion. This is guidance, it's advice to the public. It is not a lockdown or a ban. It's not about telling people to cancel plans, it's about asking them to be careful about making new ones and to minimise non-essential travel.

"In our view that's a sensible approach given the rise in cases.

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"This intervention is coming earlier than we saw in Bolton and we have every reason to believe this rise can be brought under control quickly and the situation can be turned around.

"If we are all a little more cautious and maintain the sensible measures we've been following we will protect ourselves. We're asking people to behave sensibly.

"We are, though, saying to the Government that if we're having a localised approach to messaging, testing, tracing and isolating that should also apply to vaccinations.

"We're not asking for more than our fair share, we're asking for Greater Manchester's supply to be brought forward so we can run a surge vaccination programme over the next three weeks, in particular in higher-case areas so we can get vaccine take-up over 85 per cent.

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"We believe we're able to do that and we're asking the Government to give us the tools we need and allow us to go further, faster."

Chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Sir Richard Leese said the highest Covid-19 case rates in the city-region are currently among the 16-to-29 age group.

He said that means the largest case numbers are currently in age groups which have not been offered vaccines or are only just being invited to book jabs.

The latest seven-day case rate for Wigan is 131.4 cases per 100,000 residents, which is for the week ending June 3.

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Among over-60s, who are at most risk of becoming seriously ill or ending up in hospital, the borough's rate is 24.5 cases per 100,000 people for the week up to June 2. The Greater Manchester rate is 30.3.

Sir Richard said it was important to reduce transmission because Covid-19 continuing to circulate increases the likelihood of new variants appearing which may be more easily passed on or may be resistant to vaccines.

He also said the health system was still under pressure as hospitals are trying to catch up on a massive backlog of hundreds of thousands of elective surgeries which were postponed due to Covid-19 and GPs were also seeing a rise in pent-up demand that had been suppressed by the coronavirus.

Hospitalisation levels due to Covid-19 remain low across the city-region.

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Mr Burnham also said on Tuesday afternoon that schools have been advised to continue with mask wearing for both staff and pupils due to the prevalence of the Delta variant locally.

The press conference also heard that absences from schools in the region are above the national average.

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