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Looking closely at the latest Covid dashboard for England, it becomes clear that some areas are extremely unlikely to be freed from enhanced lockdown restrictions today.
Take Bradford, one of my favourite northern cities (top curry, dramatic Brontë backdrop, gorgeous blackened stone). Cases there have now reached 61.1 per 100,000 people, according to the most recent data for the week ending 1 September.
Nearby Leeds put out a warning to residents yesterday after 44 new cases on Wednesday, giving it a rate of 32.6 per 100,000.
It is looking worse in Bolton, where there were 242 infections, equating to 84.8 per 100,000.
Now, there will be those who will tell you that the old cases per 100,000 metric is too blunt a tool. That was the argument Sir Graham Brady MP was making this week when arguing that his native Trafford should be freed from lockdown. He said it should be part of a “basket of measures” used to determine local measures, including the hospitalisation rate.
Others would say that while the rates might look scary, the actual number of cases is still pretty low compared with the April peak. But many health experts would warn that all outbreaks start small and if you don’t take action early you are heading for disaster.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has drawn the short straw this morning and is doing the broadcast round.
Talking to Sky News, he acknowledged that the different advice for quarantining when arriving from abroad in the devolved nations “creates confusion”:
I do realise it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule but we do have this devolved approach throughout the United Kingdom and I can only be responsible for the English part of that.”
Shapps said Greece and Portugal were not added to England’s quarantine list because figures suggested cases were decreasing in those nations.
Asked about the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott — apparently promised a senior UK trade role despite a reputation for homophobia and misogyny — Shapps insisted the job was not yet Abbott’s:
I hate to bring us back to reality but he hasn’t been appointed to anything and as far as I know there haven’t been any appointments made. There are lots of people with whom their comments I vehemently disagree but I’m not into defending people who are not actually carrying out any role for the British government.”
It’s Friday, which in England’s more Covid-riddled areas is now the day of reckoning. It has become tradition that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, waits until the end of the working week to announce who is in and who is out of local lockdown, ruining plans for your backyard family BBQ or delighting your local eyebrow threader, depending on the news.
The announcement usually comes at around 11am, but don’t set your watch by it. Last Friday it was going dark by the time the weekly surveillance report was issued, showing which areas had made it on the notorious “watch list” and who was subject to what measures. That’s because certain areas – notably Trafford, the wealthiest borough in Greater Manchester – were arguing with government about whether or not they should have their restrictions lifted.
Hancock listened to Sir Graham Brady, Trafford’s sole Tory MP, who was keen for lockdown to end, only to have to perform a reverse ferret on Wednesday and reimpose the measures there and in Bolton. Do not expect any change in the restrictions in Greater Manchester today, but some parts of West Yorkshire and east Lancashire could be freed after infections.
It is squeaky bum time in much of the north-east, where infections have climbed sharply. South Tyneside is now firmly in the government’s “red zone”, with 47.9 cases per 100,000 people recorded in the week ending 1 September. Middlesbrough has reached 30.6 per 100,000; Redcar and Cleveland are on 24.9, Gateshead 24.2 and Stockton-on-Tees 20.3 (a 344% week-on-week increase).
The government makes holidaymakers quarantine from any countries with more than 20 cases per 100,000, so to ignore such spikes on home turf would be…unusual.
I’m Helen Pidd, the Guardian’s north of England editor, and I will be keeping you updated throughout the morning until Andy Sparrow arrives.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK coronavirus live: north-east England could face new lockdown restrictions as cases rise | Politics