Manchester Covid infection rate shows 15-fold increase since local lockdown was introduced

Laura Donnelly
·5-min read
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham - Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham - Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The Covid infection rate in Manchester has risen more than 15-fold since the local lockdown has been introduced, figures show, as Mayor Andy Burnham warns the Government is in danger of “losing” the public in the North, and that there was a growing “North-South divide”.

The latest statistics show Manchester's rate at now 335.9 cases per 100,000 - one of the worst in the country, having surpassed 200 per 100,000 in recent days.

When restrictions were introduced across parts of the North West in July, the figure was around 20 per 100,000.

On Sunday Andy Burnham, Mayor Greater Manchester, said there was a growing “North-South divide” with the Government at risk of “losing the public” in the north.

Speaking to the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show on Sky News, the former Labour minister said: "We need a bit of a reset here so that people can clearly understand what's being asked."

He added: "I certainly feel this week that we've reached a bit of a turning point with all of this.

"The Government are really in danger of losing the public in the North of England.”

"And actually if they carry on imposing restrictions on the North without proper support for the businesses and the employees affected in the North, we will see a winter of levelling down and the North-South divide getting bigger,” he said.

It came as a leading scientist said lockdowns were not the best way to tackle Covid flare-ups.

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

Prof Devi Sridhar, chairwoman of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said voluntary compliance with clear messages about avoiding crowds, wearing face coverings, and staying outside as much as possible were more effective. 

She told the same programme that international research comparing different countries’ response to the pandemic showed that “suppression does not have to mean lockdown.”

"I think perhaps one of the mistakes has been to think the only way to suppress this virus is through lockdowns which have major economic consequences as well as for general society,” she said. 

Profile | Andy Burnham
Profile | Andy Burnham

Despite stormy conditions across most of the country, police forces were still out in large numbers to ensure revellers were adhering to social distancing and abiding by the 10pm curfew.

The wet weather meant there were less instances of people gathering in big groups once the pubs had closed, but there were fears that many simply opted to attend house parties, which are harder for the police to monitor.

In Liverpool on Friday evening 21 people were fined after police were called to break up a house party, while in east London a take away restaurant was fined for serving food after the 10pm cut off point.

Boris Johnson - Tory handling of coronavirus
Boris Johnson - Tory handling of coronavirus

On Sunday the Prime Minister  said it was “simply too early to say” whether local lockdowns are working, and said he knew it was “deeply frustrating” for those labouring under them.

He told The Andrew Marr show: “The advice that we're getting is that in these areas where we've got a local lockdown, stringent local lockdowns, we need to wait and see whether the R starts to come down.

Greater Manchester has been under a local lockdown since the end of July, with household mixing banned in homes and gardens in Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Bury, Tameside, and Rochdale. 

Labour has questioned whether "political interference" is at play when ministers are deciding which areas face local lockdowns after accusations that wealthy and Tory-voting areas are being spared.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, whose Leicester South constituents have faced various extra lockdown measures since June, called for ministers to publish their criteria for deciding when an area has reached the threshold for a lockdown, or risk claims of bias.

Mr Ashworth said it was "not clear why" some areas have had additional restrictions applied when some Tory-voting areas with higher case rates have not.

Coronavirus UK and regional map ..
Coronavirus UK and regional map ..

Some constituencies in the so-called "blue wall" strip across northern Wales and England that switched from Labour to the Tories at the last election have not faced tightened restrictions despite having similar or even worse coronavirus rates compared with Labour-voting areas in the region.

The red-to-blue swing seats of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, with 73 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population, and Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, with a rate of 112, are both free of additional measures.

But Greater Manchester, home to a swathe of Labour seats, had an average rate of almost 24 per 100,000 when lockdown was introduced in July.

Meanwhile, seats represented by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick have rates of infection that also exceed criteria used to justify lockdowns in the summer.

Mr Sunak's constituency of Richmond in North Yorkshire has a rate of 73, while Mr Jenrick's Newark seat in Nottinghamshire has 84, compared with the national rate in England of 28.

Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default

Professor Dominic Harrison, the director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, tweeted: "Are you more likely to have social lockdowns earlier and for longer and at a lower confirmed case rate if you are a northern, less wealthy, non-Conservative voting local government area? Check the data..."

Mr Ashworth said: "Because there is no clear guidelines as to why an area goes into restrictions and how an area comes out of restrictions then there is a suspicion that there is political interference - I hope there isn't.

"But until the Government publish clear guidelines, that suspicion will always linger."

Last week, The Prime Minister faced questions about why his own Uxbridge constituency in the south of England had not had additional social restrictions imposed when the infection rate is double that of Greater Manchester's when it entered into lockdown conditions.

Boris Johnson, speaking to ITV on Friday, said: "I appreciate there are differences and people want to see an iron consistency applied across the whole country.

"But you have to do your best to tackle the incidents of the virus where it is greatest and that's what we're trying to do."