Lancashire and Greater Manchester residents urged not to leave region

Lancashire and Greater Manchester residents urged not to leave region

06/08/2021

First sign ‘Freedom Day’ will be delayed? Matt Hancock tells 4MILLION people in Greater Manchester and Lancashire to ‘minimise travel’, get tested and meet outdoors amid rise in Indian variant after Chris Whitty warned June 21 should be put back TWO WEEKS

  • North West is the country’s hotspot with outbreaks triggered by Indian ‘Delta’ variant taking off there 
  • Almost a third of UK’s cases yesterday were in the region around Manchester and Liverpool: 1,673 out of 5,683
  • The Health Secretary said surge testing will be done all over the area and insisted ‘We know this can work’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced the ‘enhanced package of support’ for the North West and said: ‘We know this approach can work’

Four million people living in Greater Manchester and Lancashire face lockdown rules creeping back into their lives as the Government has urged them not to leave the area and to avoid meeting people indoors to stop Covid.

The North West areas are hotspots for the Indian ‘Delta’ strain and are now being sent ‘enhanced support’ from the military and Department of Health including surge testing and contact tracing to try and contain the variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today asked local people to get tested for coronavirus and said: ‘We know that this approach can work, we’ve seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases.’

Both places were added to the ‘coronavirus restrictions’ page of Government guidance under the heading ‘If you’re in an area where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading’, alongside other parts of the North West, Leicester, Hounslow in London and North Tyneside.

It comes amid claims that science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have spooked No10 into pushing back plans for June 21’s ‘Freedom Day’ total unlocking citing fears of a third wave.

The top advisers reportedly gave a ‘fairly grim’ update on the situation to ministers, underlining that jabs can never provide 100 per cent protection and the new variant is significantly more transmissible so will cause more cases.

Whitehall sources said contingency plans are being drawn up for a possible delay of ‘between two weeks and a month’ to give scientists more time to consider data and allow the NHS to carry out more vaccinations. 

Matt Hancock added that it is still likely to be another couple of weeks before advisers and ministers can fully understand how well the vaccines work against the now-dominant Delta strain. 

Boris Johnson is expected to confirm by next Monday at the latest whether the June 21 plan will go ahead and it is looking increasingly unlikely.

The PM is running the roadmap timetable down to the wire, so far refusing to confirm whether he’s changed his mind. His spokesman said today: ‘We need to take the time as built into the roadmap to consider the data.’

New rules in the North West come amid claims that science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Sir Patrick Vallance (right) have spooked No10 into pushing back plans for June 21’s ‘Freedom Day’ total unlocking citing fears of a third wave

Despite vaccine success, some ministers and officials have been spooked by a surge in Covid cases – up by more than 50 per cent in the last week. Pictured: Boris Johnson receives his jab

Another source said: ‘Most of the cases now are among teenagers, who are not going to get seriously ill. The health lobby will always want more data but we have enough now to get on with it.’

But another insider said: ‘No decisions have been taken but it is looking pretty challenging to go ahead on June 21. I think people are leaning towards a short delay.

‘It would be a nightmare for the sectors affected, but – having said it is all about data not dates – it is difficult to go ahead with a reopening when the data is pointing the wrong way.’

Covid intensive care survival rates DOUBLE with new drugs and jabs – and just FIVE patients are being admitted each day compared to 330-plus at the peak of the pandemic

An average of just six people per day were admitted to intensive care with Covid in May – a total of 169 patients across the UK.

The number marks a huge turn of fortunes since the winter when there were nearly 10,000 people taken into during January, the worst month of the UK’s epidemic.

The massive vaccine rollout, which has now given two doses to at least half of adults, the effects of lockdown and the use of potentially life-saving treatments have managed to force the virus into submission in many parts of the country.

While coronavirus patients made up three quarters of all critically ill patients in the UK in January, they now account for just one in five. 

Department of Health data show 3,493 people were admitted to hospital in May and the 169 in ICU means just 4.8 per cent of people admitted to hospital ended up in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital overall – including non-ICU – is now just 2.5 per cent of what it was at the peak, with 932 compared to 39,249.

The South West, South East, East of England and Wales all had fewer than 10 people go into intensive care across the entire month – four, eight, six and two, respectively. 

The percentage of people admitted to hospital who die has tumbled from almost half to just one in five

Covid patients (red) made up three quarters of all ICU patients in January but this has tumbled to just one in five

The discovery of drugs that can save people from dying of Covid have dramatically boosted survival rates in ICU, too, with the death rate halving to around 20 per cent from 45 per cent in the first wave, The Telegraph reports.

Medicines such as the steroid dexamethasone and arthritis drug tocilizumab have both helped to cut the risk of death for hospital patients since they were proven to work in June and January.  

And early figures suggest the vaccines are keeping people out of the life support units. The average age of patients is falling and is now below 50, down from 60, showing older double-jabbed age groups are benefiting from protection.  

An insider told the Times on the briefing from Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick: ‘They emphasised again that the vaccine did not provide 100 per cent protection and there were real concerns about the transmissibility of the new variants.

‘I think you’re looking at a delay of between two weeks and a month. As long as we have fully opened things up by the school holidays then I don’t think the political damage will be too great.’  

Mr Eustice said ‘critical test’ ahead of the planned lifting of restrictions on June 21 will be whether those who are vaccinated are being infected.

He told Sky News: ‘What we’re not seeing at the moment is that growth in hospitalisations associated with (infections) and that’s because we know that if people have the vaccine, particularly once they’ve had the second jab of the vaccine, it actually does give them immunity to this new strain that’s around.’

In the latest developments in the fight against coronavirus:

The Prime Minister is due to announce next Monday if the Government will press ahead with the fourth and final step in the roadmap out of lockdown.

This would scrap the one-metre social distancing rule and lift caps on the number of people who can meet indoors or outdoors.

Ministers are also set to rule on whether mask wearing should continue and if formal advice to work from home should end.

Downing Street sources said the ‘finely balanced’ decision would be taken at the end of this week.

Business leaders and Tory MPs warned last night that any delay from June 21 would be devastating and could see thousands of pubs and restaurants go to the wall.

Ministers fear a delay could also wreck summer plans, with thousands of weddings cancelled, theatre openings put back and key events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament and music festivals facing crowd restrictions. 

The row comes as people aged 25 to 30 will be offered their first jab from today as ministers try to step up the vaccination programme.

In other developments, official figures showed just one Covid-related death in the UK recorded yesterday.

Mr Hancock told the Commons the Government faces a ‘challenging decision’ over whether to lift remaining lockdown restrictions across England on June 21.

He added: ‘I can tell the House that today, working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support based on what’s happening in Bolton to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we are seeing there.

‘This includes rapid response teams, putting in extra testing, military support and supervised in-school testing.

‘I want to encourage everyone in Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer.

‘We know that this approach can work, we’ve seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases.

‘This is the next stage of tackling the pandemic in Manchester and Lancashire and of course it’s vital that people in these areas, as everywhere else, come forward and get the jab as soon as they are eligible because that is our way out of this pandemic together.’ 

An average of just six people per day were admitted to intensive care with Covid in May – a total of 169 patients across the UK.

The number marks a huge turn of fortunes since the winter when there were nearly 10,000 people taken into during January, the worst month of the UK’s epidemic.

The massive vaccine rollout, which has now given two doses to at least half of adults, the effects of lockdown and the use of potentially life-saving treatments have managed to force the virus into submission in many parts of the country.

While coronavirus patients made up three quarters of all critically ill patients in the UK in January, they now account for just one in five. 

Department of Health data show 3,493 people were admitted to hospital in May and the 169 in ICU means just 4.8 per cent of people admitted to hospital ended up in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital overall – including non-ICU – is now just 2.5 per cent of what it was at the peak, with 932 compared to 39,249.

The South West, South East, East of England and Wales all had fewer than 10 people go into intensive care across the entire month – four, eight, six and two, respectively. 

Tory MP and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Times Radio he is ‘feeling quite optimistic that we are going to see the restrictions lifted’.

He said that ‘being double-jabbed works against this new variant, so, if Freedom Day ends up being put back a couple of weeks so we can get more people double-jabbed, I think it will only be a temporary setback. I think we are on the way to getting back to normal.’ 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is warning Boris Johnson he must consider the impact on the economy of extending restrictions into the summer

Business leaders Tory MPs warned any delay from June 21 would be devastating and could see thousands of pubs and restaurants go to the wall. Pictured: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps



In the two-week period to May 22 the variant was dominant in 102 areas. In the two weeks to May 29, the latest data available, the variant was dominant in 201 of 317 local authorities, or two thirds of England

British tourists yesterday scrambled to leave Portugal ahead of its move to the travel amber list this morning while the UK’s daily Covid cases rose to 5,683, with nearly three-quarters of local areas recording week-on-week increases – the highest proportion since January 6.

Mr Hancock yesterday told MPs the Indian or Delta variant was now thought to be at least 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent or Alpha variant.

He said it now accounted for the ‘vast majority’ of new cases, but evidence from Bolton suggested vaccines were working. 

Of the 12,383 UK cases of the Indian variant, 126 have been admitted to hospital. Of these, just three had been fully vaccinated. 

Microbiologist Professor Ravi Gupta, who sits on a sub-group of the Sage committee, said ‘a few more weeks rather than months’ may be needed before a full exit from lockdown.

Former chief scientist Professor David King also called for a delay, saying there was ‘evidence of another wave appearing’.

But former health minister Steve Brine warned there was a growing perception that ministers were ‘writing Covid a blank cheque and just continually delaying’.

Kate Nicholls, of industry group UK Hospitality, said a delay to the unlocking would result in ‘business failures and insolvencies very quickly’. 

She warned: ‘You are going to have long Covid for the economy if you are not very careful.’

The PM’s spokesman said data on hospital cases over the next few days would be ‘crucial’ to the final decision. 

Ministers have considered a compromise plan, which would see some restrictions lifted on June 21 while others remain in place.

But multiple sources said the Government was more likely to delay the whole package than try to split it up. 

The devastating cost of diverting from the roadmap

Analysis by Mario Ledwith

When it was unveiled in February, the PM’s roadmap out of lockdown promised to ‘restore freedoms sustainably, equitably and as quickly as possible’.

Announcing the plan, Boris Johnson said: ‘We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life-chances of our children.’

The roadmap set out a plan to end legal limits on social contact by June 21.

The ultimate decision will be based on four tests, including the success of the vaccine rollout, current pressure on the NHS and the risk posed by new variants.

As ministers inch closer to making the call on whether to stick to the roadmap, we look at what rules could finally be lifted – and the impact if they are not.

ONE-METRE RULE

Only last week, Mr Johnson said there was a ‘good chance’ the Government could ditch its ‘one-metre plus’ social distancing guidance.

If the advice remains in place, there will still be significant impacts on everyday life.

If the ‘one-metre rule’ advice remains in place, there will still be significant impacts on everyday life

The advice would make it difficult for the Government to overturn its guidance that everyone who can work from home must do so, while posing a further obstacle to the retail and hospitality sectors. 

It could also prevent an end to enforced table service at pubs and bars. Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality, said lifting the one-metre rule is ‘vital’ for firms to operate viably.

LIMITS ON WEDDINGS

Failure to lift restrictions will mean that those getting married will have to keep the number of attendees at the current limit of 30.

Couples risk losing tens of thousands of pounds, while businesses already on the brink have warned that failure to allow big ceremonies to go ahead will be disastrous.

Couples risk losing tens of thousands of pounds, while businesses already on the brink have warned that failure to allow big ceremonies to go ahead will be disastrous

Industry body the UK Weddings Taskforce warned the wedding sector faces estimated revenue losses of more than £1.3billion.

RULE OF SIX (INSIDE)

Continuing to limit indoor gatherings to six people or two households would curtail sections of the hospitality sector reliant on large- scale events.

It would also prove an impediment to larger families who have spent months waiting for the opportunity to meet indoors, rather than in gardens.

Continuing to limit indoor gatherings to six people or two households would curtail sections of the hospitality sector reliant on large- scale events

Ministers have not dismissed the possibility of ditching the rule of six while keeping social distancing guidance in place, due to the higher risk of transmission inside.

UK Hospitality has predicted that a two-week delay to easing restrictions could cost the industry £1.5billion. Pub retailer Greene King has warned it would lose £1million during every England football game that takes place without the easing of the rules.

RULE OF 30 (OUTSIDE)

The hospitality sector is once again likely to bear the brunt of the refusal to scrap the 30-person cap on out- door gatherings.

The improving summer weather and lifting of restrictions was expected to coincide with a wave of large-scale gatherings that may now have to be cancelled.

NIGHTCLUBS

Already on their knees after being hit hardest of all by Covid restrictions, an extended ban could be a fatal blow for the country’s nightclubs and indoor music venues.

A recent report found that clubs, which have been closed for 15 months, have already made 51 per cent of staff redundant.

The Night Time Industries Association, which represents nightclubs and other venues, has warned MPs that venues are facing an estimated £2.5billion rent crisis.

LARGE EVENTS

Failure to give the green light to capacity crowds could prove a hammer blow to the music festival sector, which is worth £1.1billion.

It is also likely to stand in the way of the UK’s summer of sport, with the European Football Championship the most high-profile victim. 

Failure to give the green light to capacity crowds could prove a hammer blow to the music festival sector, which is worth £1.1billion. Pictured: Dua Lipa performs at the 2021 BRIT Awards

The tournament’s semi-finals and final are being played at Wembley and limits could dash hopes of seeing the stadium filled with cheering England fans.

Just 15 people out of 60,000 tested positive for Covid at nine trial events staged by the Government, including the FA Cup Final and Brit Awards last month.

FACE MASKS

At present, you can be fined up to £200 for failing to wear a mask in indoor areas such as shops or on public transport, unless they are exempt. 

Last month, the Government dropped a requirement for schoolchildren to wear masks amid concerns they were affecting learning.

Ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have said that restrictions over wearing masks could be kept after freedom day

But ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have said that restrictions over wearing masks could be kept after freedom day.

Surveys have shown people are largely in favour of retaining indoor mask-wearing, while studies show they can be successful at reducing transmission when combined with other measures.

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