'Regional lockdown' threat sparks 'serious concern'

‘Regional lockdown’ threat sparks ‘serious concern’ as city mayors including Andy Burnham slam plan as ‘unenforceable’ and call for ‘local furloughs’

  • Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Liverpool’s Steve Rotheram made statement 
  • Warned prospect of regional lockdowns in the UK is cause for ‘serious concern’ 
  • Pair called for assistance after data suggested R rate is around 1 in north west

The prospect of regional lockdown has sparked ‘serious concern’ as two city mayors called on the Government to consider a ‘local furlough’ scheme for those unable to get to work. 

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said some council leaders fear local lockdown would be unenforceable in a joint statement made this afternoon. 

‘At present, there is very little information available to local authorities on the Government’s policy of “local lockdowns”‘, they said.

‘But what we do know gives us cause for serious concern and in the view of some our local council leaders it is simply unenforceable.’

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (pictured) and Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said some council leaders fear local lockdown would be unenforceable

They added if the Government was determined to proceed with the policy, it would be ‘imperative’ that significant support was put in place for those affected.

The statement said: ‘Local lockdowns would have a much greater financial impact on people who are unable to work from home.

‘We therefore call on the Government to consider a form of “local furlough” scheme for people whose workplaces may be closed down or who are unable to get to work.’ 

It comes as Matt Hancock on Friday hinted localised restrictions could be enforced in the future, while suggesting areas hit harder by coronavirus could face tougher restrictions.  

In their statement, Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram called for Government assistance after data suggested the north west’s reproductive rate of coronavirus is around one. 

The Government has stressed throughout he crisis that the R rate must be kept below one in order to avoid a second peak of Covid-19.

Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram said the rise of the R value – which is the number of people an infected person passes the virus onto – was a ‘significant development’.

They added a ‘much more considered response’ to the pandemic was now needed, adding that ‘talk of putting our communities under lockdown is not helpful’.

Mr Burnham and Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram (pictured) said the rise of the R value – which is the number of people an infected person passes the virus onto – was a ‘significant development’

Calling for more localised information about the spread of the virus, the mayors said: ‘So far, the majority of information provided to the public has been at a national and regional level.

‘The truth is that the spread of the virus varies widely within regions and even within local authority areas. To this point, however, the public have been given very little localised information.

‘So we will consult with the council leaders in our two city-regions, and Public Health England, on the best way of publishing regular local information for all of the 16 boroughs in our two city-regions, possibly in the form a “heat map”.’

To support this, they said the Government ‘urgently’ needs to provide real-time data from the national testing and contact tracing programme to local directors of public health. 

A recent report from Public Health England (PHE) and Cambridge University, estimated that R value for the north west was 1.01, while the south west was 1.00.

However, the value used by the Government remained between 0.7 and 0.9 for the UK as a whole, though the figure has a two to three-week lag, meaning it does not account for the latest easing of the lockdown.

If R is one or higher, the virus will spread exponentially through the population. An R number of less than one indicates the virus is in decline.

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