Our weekly round-up of coronavirus news - 10 March
Mayor Andy Burnham has held his weekly press conference detailing the latest COVID 19 statistics for Greater Manchester. He was joined by Baroness Beverley Hughes to report on policing matters.
"Interestingly these are the best set of figures we have presented since September... We are seeing fairly substantial decreases across the whole of Greater Manchester in the last week," said Mr Burnham.
Case rates continue to drop, with the Greater Manchester rate now at 88.2 per 100,000, though this is still above the rate for England. The figures mirror the falls in other areas of the country as it was two or three weeks ago.
Only Rochdale is in the top 20 areas for cases nationally. Trafford is the only borough below the national average rate.
Back on the tv tonight with the confirmation that the NW Nightingale is to wind down clinical operations and close. Having played our part in the national response we’re now looking ahead as we make preparations to return the venue to hosting great events once again. 💙🌈
— Shaun Hinds (@shaunhinds) March 9, 2021
The headline news is the Nightingale Hospital occupying the Manchester Central convention centre is to be stood down. According to the BBC, it cost £10 million and was rarely used. NHS England said existing hospitals have been able to increase their bed capacity and the Nightingales are no longer needed. The closure was initially reported three weeks ago but has now been confirmed for early next month.
Hospital admissions have dipped under 100, down from 382 in late January. "There is a sustained reduction in pressure on the system," said Mr Burnham. "Because of this we are talking to NHS colleagues about the resumption of elective care, and those arrangements are being made now," he added.
Localised mass testing has uncovered nearly 150 cases of COVID-19 in the Greater Manchester region. Testing in the north and south of the city centre was begun in response to the possibility of variants of concern in those areas, though no cases of said variants have been discovered so far.
Around 7700 people were tested in February and the beginning of this month when the Kent variant was identified in Moss Side.
There is an increase in testing in general which reflected the full return of schools as teachers and other staff prepare. Testing will go up over the next few weeks and this could be reflected in a jump in case rates, according to Mr Burnham.
Mr Burnham said we should expect to hit the 1 million mark today (or possibly tomorrow) for adults vaccinated in Greater Manchester. Second doses are to start soon.
Almost half of the adult population of Greater Manchester have received one or more doses of the vaccination which is a great achievement, said Mr Burnham as he extended his thanks to all the professionals and volunteers working on the programme.
Baroness Hughes joined Mr Burnham to report on policing issues related to coronavirus.
Last week there were 1450 reports of COVID-related incidents, with 650 of these occurring over the weekend. The total amount of fixed penalty notices over the last six months comes to just under 4500.
Much of the focus has been on young people gathering in parks and beauty spots. Greater Manchester Police has been working with schools to prevent this issue.
Looking ahead GMP is preparing for the gradual relaxation of restrictions by working with strategic partners. There is “a lot of joint work and communication activity going on," says Baroness Hughes.
Mr Burnham took the opportunity to comment on the mental health and wellbeing of young people during this period: "I think it is important to understand how difficult it has been for young people in Greater Manchester when we've had a situation of school being open then closed; people being sent home to isolate, the reduced face-to-face learning has had an impact. Three quarter are saying they find school stressful, over 70% being worried about catching up, one in four saying they don't have everything they need to learn effectively," he said.
On a more positive note, the Mayor commented that "young people also told us the ways they have been contributing positively to their community in 2020 and are looking forward to getting involved in positive social action in the next 12 months."
The University of Manchester has set up a Greater Manchester Young People's Wellbeing service which will allow schools and other public services to improve the support they offer to this age group.