Covid figures released for Greater Manchester - 24 February
MAYOR Andy Burnham held his weekly coronavirus conference this afternoon (Wednesday 24 February) to deliver an update on the COVID-19 figures for Greater Manchester and comment on the progress of the vaccination programme in the area. The Mayor was joined by Sir Richard Leese and Baroness Beverley Hughes who briefed on policing matters.
Mr Burnham commented on the roadmap out of the pandemic: "It feels like our voice has been heard. The position Greater Manchester put forward to the Government is embodied in the roadmap. It seems like the lesson has been learned from last year. It's a cautious approach which is right."
"We would argue that the single biggest risk to the roadmap holding together is the issue of self-isolation and the lack of consistent support for self-isolation."
"This issue has to be fixed if the roadmap is to be watertight."
Sir Richard began the slides with the seven-day rate of positive cases per 100,000 people to 19 February by borough. The overall number in Greater Manchester to 178.5 per 100,000 which represents a reduction of about 10%. All areas are falling except Bury which has risen at 232.5 per 100,000, which is cause for concern, though it is a lot less than it was three weeks ago and there doesn't seem to be any particular explanation for it.
"There’s a slight cause for concern although numbers are going down it is a slow rate of decline compared to other parts of the country," added Sir Richard.
Testing has slowed down this week due in part to half term and will therefore increase again next week. "We've been going door to door with testing and it's been successful," said Sir Richard. Mobile testing is a possibility for the future.
Care home rates are stable at 1.9%: "We’re managing to contain outbreaks in care homes,” said Sir Richard.
Admissions were down though the occupation of ICU beds remains stable at 140. “We’re fairly clear we’ve reached the peak of the crisis, admissions are going down,” said Sir Richard.
The headline figure is that 737,248 people have been vaccinated. This represents just over 30% of the whole population. "It does show we’re making good progress,” said Sir Richard. There is a built-in inefficiency of having two streams of booking and Sir Richard commented that we ought to look at ways of combing those streams.
Sir Richard also said we ought to be tackling health inequalities and those areas with the highest inequality are also those with the highest vaccine hesitancy so we ought to be looking at all means of getting vaccines into those areas.
Mr Burnham added that if we were to open up the national booking system, people in at-risk professions such as bus drivers, older teachers and taxi drivers could come forward to book a slot at the mass vaccination centre and that he has put this case to the Government.
Mr Burnham pointed to the need for support for those isolating and the need to follow SAGE's recommendations on this. He also talked about protecting jobs and maintaining job security. There are a significant number of people on furlough and there have been many applications for business grants, self-employment support and bounce back loans.
Mr Burnham said: "We continue to have concerns around hospitality and of course hospitality is further back in the queue of the businesses to reopen behind retail which gives rise to concern about whether those businesses can survive. The partial reopening that is allowed gives rise to concerns that furlough may be removed once there is the possibility of businesses being able to provide meals and drinks outside, which is not in the gift of every hospitality business in Greater Manchester. What we want is to see is the Chancellor commit to a furlough scheme which is within the logic of the roadmap and maintains access to the furlough scheme as long as business will need it, particularly business in the hospitality sector. The includes a fourth round of the self-employment income support scheme and we'd like to echo calls from business for a continuation of business rates relief and reduction of VAT."
Sir Richard commented that "I've looked at the figures and what Manchester is paying out compared to other big cities and we are doing better than they are. We are not sitting on any applications. We've widened the discretionary element of the scheme and on top of that we are not just sitting there waiting for applications; we have identified as far as we can all of the businesses we think ought to be applying for support and we are contacting them to try and encourage business to apply. So I think we are trying our best to get as much money out to businesses as possible."
Mr Burnham added "GM is above the England average. There was a delay in terms of the criteria and some of this funding has to last until the next financial year so it has to last. All eyes are on the budget next week."
Baroness Hughes was available to comment on matters regarding policing. She opened by sending her condolences to the family and friends of PC Jonathan Wain who died last week after testing positive for COVID-19. He was the third member of staff to succumb to the virus. She said "he was a very popular and dedicated police officer and he will be badly missed."
There were 1473 COVID-19 related reports over the week.
Much of the activity was concentrated at the weekend. At one wedding a total of 37 Fixed Penalty Notices of £200 were served and at one event the organiser who refused entry to the police will be issued a £10,000 fine.
A trend also emerged of large gatherings of young people in parks which coincided with half-term but may continue as the weather improves. There has also been an increase in enforcement at the airport, but simultaneously there has been a decrease of issues regarding students at the universities.
Business compliance has been good overall though Baroness Hughes noted there have been cases of backroom bars and even a pop-up barber's shop in a garden shed.
She finished, "We must continue to respect the current restrictions that can reduce the level of transmission. it is vitally important that everyone complies with the behaviour we are asking."
Baroness Hughes also noted that the role of Chief Constable of GMP will be advertised today.
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