Greater Manchester Mayor speaks about Covid situation as case rate reduction in Wigan slows

Andy Burnham spoke about the position in the borough and also gave his views on the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

The statistics presented at the weekly press conference by the city-region's elected first citizen on Wednesday showed a very small reduction in the Covid-19 case rate in Wigan.

There were 174.6 cases per 100,000 residents in Wigan in the week ending February 19.

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This is a tiny reduction from the 175.3 cases per 100,000 people seen in the week up to February 12.

Andy BurnhamAndy Burnham
Andy Burnham

Mr Burnham suggested an outbreak at a prison in Wigan and the high case levels in local authorities to the west of the borough may have played a part, along with the prevalence of the more contagious Kent variant.

He said: "I think Wigan's proximity to St Helens may be part of the reason for the case rates, and the rates in parts of the Liverpool City Region have had an impact on boroughs in Greater Manchester. There has also been a prison outbreak.

"Also, 90 per cent of new cases are the Kent strain."

Mr Burnham said that there would be more volatility in the case rates in 2021 than 2020 and urged people to recognise the difference in contexts when looking at Covid-19 this year.

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Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and the leader of Manchester City Council, also suggested that high numbers of people unable to work from home and having to go out to do their jobs could explain why rates in parts of the region are falling slowly.

However, he maintained that the overall direction of travel for Greater Manchester as a whole is of declining Covid-19 case rates.

Hospital admissions are also down across the city-region and the picture for intensive care units is stable, although patients numbers are reducing more slowly there.

The achievements of the vaccine roll-out, which includes 91 per cent of over-70s having now had their first dose, were also hailed.

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Mr Burnham also used his press conference to discuss the Government's path for getting out of national lockdown.

He said the scheme set out was broadly correct and he welcomed the cautious approach.

However, he warned that all the good work could be undone if people could not financially afford to self-isolate and again demanded ministers look at this issue.

He said: "My overall response to the roadmap is that it feels like our voice has been heard. The Government seems to have learned the lessons of last year.

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"We are now looking forward to the Budget and we would argue that the single biggest risk to the roadmap holding together is the issue of self-isolation support, or rather the lack of consistent and comprehensive support for people who need it.

"The head of test and trace has said that every day 20,000 people are contacted but say they are unable to isolate, mainly for financial reasons.

"We would estimate at least 1,000 of them live in Greater Manchester.

"This remains the major gap in our defences and it needs to be fixed."

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Mr Burnham also said the Government should adopt Sage's recommendation to protect jobs in law so it was impossible for self-isolating workers to be made redundant.

He also expressed particular concern about the hospitality sector and called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to ensure businesses and employees were fully supported even if they were opening with reduced capacity or serving people outdoors.

He also spoke of the three million people across the country who have received no financial assistance during the pandemic and demanded the Government supports them.

He quoted a bleak report which found destitution has increased sixfold in the North West, a situation the publication's authors described as "terrifying".

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Sir Richard said the current situation in Greater Manchester meant it was crucial that people continued to follow all the public health measures that are in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

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