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Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire will receive increased testing capability, military support and face stricter rules around non-essential travel to drive down increasing Covid rates, the health secretary has announced.
Measures in Bolton, which had received additional support, including extra vaccinations, a return of mask-wearing in secondary schools and stricter rules around non-essential travel, would be rolled out to the other nine councils that make up Greater Manchester, Matt Hancock announced in the Commons on Tuesday.
The measures have been in place in Bolton since May, which has the highest infection rate in the region at 319.6 cases per 100,000 people. This has resulted in a drop in rates in Bolton, but the other nine areas have seen rapidly rising cases.
Hancock’s statement did not explicitly refer to increased vaccination supply or travel restrictions, but the official government website which advises people to “minimise travel in and out of affected areas” has now been updated to include Greater Manchester and Lancashire.
The travel guidance includes several other areas that were added last month, in a move that was criticised as “local lockdowns by stealth” after local leaders and MPs were not informed of the change. The site also recommends meeting outside where possible, staying 2 metres apart from people outside your household or support bubble and working from home if you can.
Five of the UK’s highest infection rates are in Greater Manchester, with rising numbers in Manchester, Salford, Bury and Stockport. Last month, Bolton had the highest rates of the Delta variant of Covid, but has managed to bring the rates down with enhanced testing and a vaccination drive. Some GPs have offered adults their second dose of Covid vaccination four weeks after their first, after a surplus in supplies.
Replicating “what’s working in Bolton” would help Greater Manchester and Lancashire “tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we’re seeing there”, Hancock said. “This includes rapid response teams, putting in extra testing, military support, and supervised in-school testing.”
The health secretary also encouraged all residents of “Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer”, presumably meaning the Greater Manchester region.
“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 in Lancashire. And of course, it’s vital that people in these areas as ever else come forward and get the job as soon as they’re eligible because that is our way out of this pandemic together.”
Blackburn with Darwen remains the UK’s worst-hit area with 516.4 cases per 100,000. Blackburn’s MP and public health chief have called for increased vaccinations to their area. Manchester has a rate of 189.6 cases per 100,000, while Salford has 175.8 cases by the same measure.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Greater Manchester and Lancashire to receive emergency Covid support | Coronavirus