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Greater Manchester lockdown easing U-turn after cases rise

Image copyright PA Media Image caption Restrictions will not be lifted in Bolton and Trafford but have been eased in Stockport Parts of Greater Manchester will not have lockdown restrictions eased as planned following a government U-turn.Measures in Bolton and Trafford were due to be eased overnight after a fall in cases earlier in August.But…

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PA Media

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Restrictions will not be lifted in Bolton and Trafford but have been eased in Stockport

Parts of Greater Manchester will not have lockdown restrictions eased as planned following a government U-turn.

Measures in Bolton and Trafford were due to be eased overnight after a fall in cases earlier in August.

But they will “now remain under existing restrictions” following “a significant change in the level of infection rates over the last few days”, the government announced.

The region’s mayor Andy Burnham had called the proposed easing “illogical”.

The boroughs had been due to allow people from different households to meet indoors and businesses to offer close contact services such as facials, but that has now been halted.

Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said the decision was made “in collaboration with local leaders after reviewing the latest data” which showed infection rates had more than trebled in Bolton in under a week and doubled in Trafford since the last review.

A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the U-turn as “utterly chaotic” and it gave people “no confidence in the government’s approach”.

It comes after Mr Burnham urged residents of those boroughs to ignore the lockdown easing and “continue to follow the guidance” not to have social gatherings at home.

He said people across the whole of Greater Manchester should “continue to minimise mixing in the home”, saying it was safer “for your family to do that”.

Trafford’s Labour council leader Andrew Western tweeted: “We should never have been put in this mess in the first place; this has massively damaged public confidence in measures.

“I don’t call this a win. I take no pleasure in seeing increased cases.”

Bolton Council leader David Greenhalgh said it would have been “irresponsible not to recognise the unpredicted spike we have seen in Bolton”.

He said he recognised “many people will be extremely frustrated and annoyed by this decision” but the borough had recorded the second highest increase in positive cases in the country.

“Continue to follow the additional restrictions and keep Bolton safe,” he said.

Mr Hancock said: “We have always been clear we will take swift and decisive action where needed to contain outbreaks.

“We can bring the rates down if we continue to work together and I urge everyone to continue to play their part by following the rules – get tested if you have symptoms, self-isolate and practice social distancing.”

A Covid-19 spike in Bolton and Trafford prompted council bosses to ask for restrictions to remain in place a day before they were due to be lifted.

Bolton currently has one of the highest rates of new virus cases per 100,000 residents in England.

Lockdown restrictions have now been eased in Stockport, Burnley, Hyndburn, parts of Bradford, excluding Bradford city and Keighley town, parts of Calderdale, excluding Halifax, and parts of Kirklees, excluding Dewsbury and Batley.

According to government rules, people living in these areas can now:

  • Socialise in groups of up to two households indoors or private gardens
  • Stay overnight at somebody else’s home but must try to social distance
  • Book close contact services such as facials and brow or eyelash treatments
  • Visit bowling alleys, roller rinks, soft play centres and casinos

Measures were imposed at the end of July amid a rise in cases.

Stockport has joined Wigan in being allowed to have two households socialise indoors.

But in Bolton, Trafford, Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury and Tameside it is still banned. In Oldham people are advised not to meet up with other households outdoors as well.

Analysis

By Daniel Wainwright, BBC England Data Unit

The rise in cases in Trafford and Bolton shows how quickly the situation with coronavirus can change.

On Friday the government announced it was easing the localised lockdown restrictions in parts of Greater Manchester from Wednesday – a decision it has now reversed in those two areas.

Pointing to data for the week to 20 August, it said “cases in Bolton and Stockport fell from 25.6 (per 100,000 residents) to 18.9, and 23 to 15.1 respectively, and Trafford fell from 27.1 to 17.8.”

Yet even then, there was concern that the rate was rising. The Labour leader of Trafford Council, Andrew Western, said the more recent data had shown a “slight increase”.

By Tuesday, the spike in Bolton had also become apparent and council leaders in both areas were calling for the easing of restrictions to not go ahead.

According to data released on Tuesday evening, Trafford’s rate for the week to 29 August was more than 35 cases per 100,000.

In Bolton it was 59 cases per 100,000, driven in particular by high numbers of cases on 27, 28 and 29 August.

Catalina Sastra, who runs the Party and Play, funhouse in Bolton was planning to re-open next week but said the changes were confusing.

“We’re teetering on the edge… we are due to open with an online booking system, temperature reading, we’ve had all the screens put up… but it’s just if it’s on or if it’s off”, she said.

“It’s a bit like playing hokey-cokey. Are we in or are we out?”

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Reuters

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Bolton has had its highest seven-day rate since late May

Mr Western had written to Mr Hancock accusing the government of causing “chaos and confusion”.

He said he was “very disappointed” earlier calls to keep restrictions were “completely ignored”, which “serves to exacerbate fears” that the government “only has regard for the views of Conservative MPs in the areas affected”.

Mr Burnham said he was asking the government to “talk to us today about an exit strategy from this”.

He said blanket restrictions had become less effective so “targeted interventions at a community level” need to be introduced, particularly “door-to-door interventions to do testing, tracing and messaging”.

He also requested financial support to help people self-isolating.

“We are confident that would be much more effective than poorly targeted blanket restrictions,” he said.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with leaders and local authorities across Greater Manchester and Lancashire in response to the changing situation and we keep all local restrictions under constant consideration.”

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