UK coronavirus LIVE: Lockdown rift over Manchester Tier 3 continues as Sage expert urges circuit breaker

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  • October 18, 2020
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London moves to Coronavirus Tier 2 Alert

A woman walks along an almost deserted street in Manchester

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The row over a possible Tier 3 lockdown in Manchester is continuing , after Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove accused Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham of “political posturing” and called for action “to save people’s lives” .

He made the comments as Mr Burnham called for the tougher restrictions to come with an adequate financial package. The Mayor also accused Boris Johnson of exaggerating the severity of the region’s coronavirus situation.

Meanwhile, Sage expert Professor Jeremy Farrar has said that it is “not too late” to impose a national circuit breaker lockdown and that ministers should impose it “now”, despite Mr Gove ruling out the move .

In other news, it has emerged that people who have been told to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace could have their contact details shared with police on a “case by case” basis.

Read our live updates below…

Live Updates


Andy Burnham welcomes ‘contructive’ talk with No10

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has welcomed a “constructive” conversation with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister.

A spokesman for the Labour mayor said: “The mayor has had a constructive call with Sir Edward Lister.”


And from Wales…

There have been a further 950 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 35,628.

Public Health Wales said three further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,711.


The latest statistics from England

A further 61 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,971, NHS England said on Sunday.

Patients were aged between 54 and 96. All but four patients, aged 56 to 92, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between October 4 and 17.

Four other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.


More than 1,000 new cases recorded in Northern Ireland

There have been 1,012 new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland in the last 24-hour reporting period, the Department of Health has announced.

Some 7,090 new positive cases have been notified in the last seven days.

There are 228 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, with 30 in intensive care.

There were five deaths reported on Sunday, taking the toll recorded by the department to 615.


UK shop closures at record high in 2020

A record number of shops closed during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus lockdown, new figures show.

A total of 11,000 chain operator outlets shut between January and August this year, according to research from the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PwC.

Around 5,000 shops opened, leaving a net decline of 6,001 stores, almost double the drop during the same period last year.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “We know that the pandemic will continue to impact the way we work, rest and play; however, in terms of how we shop, this isn’t new.

“What we have seen is an acceleration of existing changes in shopping behaviours alongside forced experimentation from Covid-19 restrictions.

“We all knew that consumers were shifting to shopping online or changing their priorities in terms of the things they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a step-change in these underlying trends to where they have now become the new normal.”

The data shows there has been a steady rise in shop closures since 2017, when the total was 6,453, increasing by at least 1,000 almost every year.

The sectors which have seen consistent growth over the last five years include value retailers and discount supermarkets.


Burnham: ‘This is not just a Greater Manchester issue’

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has written to political leaders in Westminster urging them to help secure a “fair financial framework” for local lockdowns.

Mr Burnham told Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer and other party leaders that “this is not just a Greater Manchester issue” as he called for a consistent new package for Tier 3 restrictions.

Backed by Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, he called for a “full and fair furlough scheme” covering 80 per cent of wages or at least the national minimum wage, support for the self-employed and improved compensation for businesses.

“With the challenging winter that lies ahead of the country, it is likely that most places will find themselves in Tier 3 at some point before a vaccine is found,” Mr Burnham wrote.

“That is why we believe it is right for Parliament to debate and agree what is a fair level of support for people and businesses in those areas.

“At present, local areas are agreeing individual deals with the Government. It is by no means clear that these will be sufficient to cope with the pressures they will face. Also, the lack of transparency about this process and the risks of differential treatment is potentially divisive.

“Establishing clear national entitlements of the kind we had during the first lockdown will create a sense of fairness which in turn would help build public support for, and compliance with, any new restrictions.”


Ireland: Government ‘will take decisive and nationwide action’ over virus surge

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Government will take “decisive and nationwide” action on Monday over the rising number of coronavirus cases, a minister has said.

It comes after political leaders received briefings from health officials in Dublin on Saturday about their concerns at the recent rapid spread of the virus.

Amid increasing speculation, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris confirmed on Sunday that the Government will take action.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended moving to Level 5 of the Covid-19 restrictions framework for six weeks.

Currently Counties Dublin, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.

The Cabinet is to meet on Monday.


Burnham criticises ‘we’re alright Jack’ letter that provoked row between Tories

Andy Burnham has hit back at a “group of southern” Tory MPs who angered Conservative colleagues by calling for the Greater Manchester Mayor to “engage” with the Government’s lockdown measures to prevent further restrictions in their constituencies.

He said at the “we’re alright Jack” letter from 20 Conservatives whose areas are currently under the lowest form of coronavirus restriction would not “cut much ice here”.

The 20 Conservatives wrote an open letter to Mr Burnham and the Labour leader urging them to get the virus “under control” in Manchester to avoid the “pain” of a national lockdown.

Tory MPs, including some in Greater Manchester, criticised the letter as “unhelpful”.

Mr Burnham told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’m not sure a sort of ‘we’re alright Jack’ letter from a group of southern Conservatives MPs is going to cut much ice here.

“I would say to them some of them represent constituencies whose cases were higher than ours when we went into national lockdown. Anywhere could end up in Tier 3 this winter. In fact, I would say places are likely to end up in Tier 3 this winter, therefore it’s everyone’s concern that we protect the lowest paid in our communities.”


Lack of compliance making UK outbreak worse, Chinese resident living in London says

A Chinese citizen living in London, who got trapped in Wuhan during the peak of the pandemic, has said China was able to get a quicker grip on the virus because people are more obedient and inclined to listen to science.

Xi Lu, 31, spent 141 days in Wuhan after he became stuck during a visit to see family in the city. His wife remained in the UK when he went abroad in January and he was eventually able to return to London, where he has lived for the last seven years, in July.

​He said: “In China if there is a rule, we follow the rule. If we see somebody not following the rules, we don’t need to punish them, we need to make sure they are aware of their violations against the rules.

“Most of the Chinese people, in particular the younger generation, they have had more than 15 years of obligatory education. So most of the younger generation, they believe in the science. They just follow whatever the scientists say.

“Wear the mask? We wear the mask. And we tell our parents and grandparents to wear the mask. We wouldn’t say ‘let’s take the mask off because I can’t breathe right’, because we know this virus is there.”


Test and Trace data share ‘proportionate’

Michael Gove defended police being given data from NHS Test and Trace, saying that officers are operating in a “very proportionate way”.

He said: “I think that actually the behavioural effects show that the majority of people, the overwhelming majority of people, want to be part of a national effort to fight the virus.

“And of course there will be some, a very, very small minority, who will be, you know, heedless of the consequences of their actions.

“But the other thing is, the police to be fair to them, are operating things so far as I can see, in a very proportionate way.

“They engage and they explain well before they enforce. We all know that people make innocent errors and an appropriate word can mean that that innocent error can be corrected by any of us.

“But where you do get persistent, flagrant and deliberate breaching of the rules, then it is appropriate for action to be taken.”


Christmas won’t be the ‘usual celebration’ this year, expert says 

Christmas will be “tough” this year and not the “usual celebration” it traditionally is, Sage member Professor Jeremy Farrar has said.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that he did not believe a coronavirus vaccine would be ready for the festive period.

Prof Farrar said: “Christmas will be tough this year. I don’t think it’s going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I’m afraid.

“I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very difficult period.

“The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year. It’s much better for us to be upfront and honest now.”

However, Prof Farrar believed Covid-19 vaccines and working treatments were “three to six months away”.


Read more HERE

A man walks through Manchester


Covid is still dangerous despite falling death rates, senior medic warns

There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 has become less dangerous despite falling death rates from the virus, a senior medic has said.

Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine in London, said that although treatment is improving, social distancing is also having an impact on transmission and viral load.

She told Sky News: “It is still a very deadly virus, although the majority of people who still become infected will have a very, very minor illness or may not even know that they are ill at all. For those people that require hospital admission, for those that come to intensive care it’s still a very severe disease.”

She added: “If you end up in critical care with Covid pneumonia you are almost twice as likely to die than somebody who’s admitted with a pneumonia not due to Covid – so it is still something to be worried about.”


Four prison officers in Northern Ireland test positive for Covid-19

Four prison officers in Northern Ireland have tested positive for Covid-19.

The staff members are based at the Hydebank Wood facility for women and young offenders in south Belfast.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service said a further 14 staff who tested negative are self-isolating and two prisoners have been put into isolation as a precaution.

“The Prison Service has well-established and embedded arrangements for testing staff, and to track and trace close contacts following a positive case,” said a spokesman.

“Following the contact tracing at HBW a further 14 staff, who have all tested negative, are self-isolating and two prisoners have also been put into isolation as a precaution.”


Sage expert: We should have a circuit breaker lockdown now

The “second best time” for a national circuit-breaker lockdown is now, according to Sage member Professor Jeremy Farrar.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that it was “never too late” for national restrictions, adding: “It’s better to do it now, than in a month’s time.”

He said: “In my view the best time to do this would have been around 20th September as Sage advised, that wasn’t decided upon then.

“The second best time to do this is now and the worst time to do this is at the end of November when things would have really got considerably worse.

“So it’s never too late, it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time.”


Burnham is ‘posturing’ over Tier 3 lockdown row

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove accused Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham of “posturing” and called for action “to save people’s lives”.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I want to reach an agreement with the political leadership in Greater Manchester. I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they’ve indulged in and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS.

“Instead of press conferences and posturing what we need is action to save people’s lives.”


Here’s Michael Gove talking about the potential for a circuit breaker


Gove: We won’t impose a circuit breaker lockdown

Michael Gove has said that the Government would not impose a national circuit breaker. 

Asked on Sophy Ridge if he was ruling out the move now or in the future, he said that the spread of the disease did not warrant blanket measures at the moment.