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Major incident declared in Greater Manchester due to coronavirus

There’s been a spike in cases.

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Ilovetheeu / Wikimedia

New data shows COVID-19 cases are still rising with spikes in Manchester, Tameside and Oldham.

A sustained steep rise in cases in Oldham and big spikes in Manchester and Tameside have meant a major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester. 

Over the weekend, gold command meetings with senior figures from police, local authorities and other agencies took place due to concerns regarding the increasing numbers in the wake of stricter lockdown measures announced on Thursday night. 

Public Health England has disclosed provisional figures – set to be revised in the next 24 hours – for the week to July 30th that suggests a continuing upwards trend.

Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash

Manchester’s council leader explained that the declaration of a major incident is not a cause for alarm, but designed to ensure all parts of the system can ramp up their response. 

The figures appear to show that the pattern that was seen the seven days before the new local restrictions were announced has continued. 

However, the new measures will take time to come into effect. 

Oldham had 31 confirmed cases on July 28th, the highest in a single day since May 9th, and a number only recorded for seven previous days throughout the entire pandemic, including five in the peak month of April. Bury appears to have leveled off and Bolton figures appear steady. 

In the week up to July 31st, Manchester had 178 confirmed cases, the highest since May 24th. On July 29th, Manchester had 36 cases. 

During the height of the pandemic, Manchester’s highest week was 366 cases. 

The targeted measures introduce in Rochdale over a fortnight ago have caused a continuing fall in figures. 

Due to the overall picture, a major incident has been declared with further review of the data happening this morning. It means the region can access extra-national resources if necessary, the same as would be in the event of a terror attack or major flood. 

According to reports, if the police need additional help with enforcement, the army could be drafted to support.

The declaration is expected to lead to greater police enforcement of the latest local measures, including in bars, however the new legislation promised by the government has yet to be formed.

Insiders have also explained the continued increases are not related to Eid and that mosques have been compliant with the new measure.

The rise, instead, is due to continued household transmission across all communities and due to younger people not observing social distancing measures. 

Senior figures hope the move to a major incident will be enough to avoid a Leicester-style full-on lockdown of the economy, which is not currently on the horizon but it depends on how the picture plays out. 

Gold command are meeting daily and in contact with the Cabinet Office and the Joint Biosecurity Centre on the issue.

There is also growing concerns regarding testing in care homes, as the governments promise to provide regular testing to staff and residents have been abandoned.

Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said people ‘should not be alarmed’ that a major incident has been declared.

He said: “This is standard practice for complex situations which require a multi-agency response.”

“Although the council and partner organisations have been working closely to tackle the impacts of the pandemic since early this year, declaring a major incident means we can ramp this up further.

“It allows the establishment of a central command structure to oversee the response and enables agencies involved to draw on extra resources.

“Following last week’s Government announcement of preventative public health measures across Greater Manchester to address rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, the public would expect us to give this situation our concerted collective attention. That, with a view to enabling these restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible, is exactly what we are doing.”

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, chair of the Local Resilience Forum, said meetings were held to discuss the new regulations.

He added: “Recognising that there are multiple localities across Greater Manchester seeing rises in infection rates, the group reviewed learning from other recent areas, including Leicester, and its own learning from across the partnership and have taken the decision to declare this a major incident in order to respond as effectively as possible.

“This will enable us to maximise the capability of agencies across Greater Manchester, including additional resources if required, to instigate a prompt and positive change in direction.

“It is part of our desire to protect the population of Greater Manchester and provide them with the highest levels of assurance that agencies are doing all they can to reduce infection rates and bring Greater Manchester back to as near a state of normality as current times allow.’’

A spokesman for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said: “The public should be reassured that the guidelines announced by Government on Thursday remain unchanged.

“This move by Greater Manchester’s Strategic Coordination Group is simply to enable our public agencies to access any additional resources they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

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They explained that it is ‘absolutely appropriate’ to maximise resources to reverse the spike.

Adding: “The more we stick to the new guidelines and drive the R rate down, the quicker they will be removed. Please do not visit someone else’s home or garden unless you have formed a support bubble.

“Do not meet outdoors in groups of more than six. Please wash your hands thoroughly and as often as possible. Let’s not act selfishly and instead keep the health of our loved ones and neighbours in mind at all times.’’

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Disqualified driver busted after turning up to do Asda shop in second-hand ambulance with lights flashing

“The driver has been arrested and is now en-route to custody”

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@gmptraffic / Twitter

A disqualified driver has been busted after they popped to Asda in a second-hand ambulance with the blue lights flashing.

After pulling into Asda with the emergency lights on, the driver was stopped by GMP who discovered they were banned.

Traffic officers up in Harpurhey spotted the driver and their family pop into the supermarket to do their shop.

The incident happened at around 10pm last night, Wednesday January 27th.

Police tracked the group down and discovered that not only was the driver banned from driving, but that they were also wanted by court.

GMP arrested the driver and the ambulance has now been seized.

GMP Traffic tweeted a picture of the ambulance last night, saying: “This Ambulance was reportedly carrying a family when it arrived at Asda Harpurhey with blue lights flashing.

“Occupants promptly went inside to do their shopping. Our divisional colleagues tracked them down & the driver was found to be disqualified & also wanted by the court.”

They added: “XT74 attended and seized the vehicle which is believed to have been purchased second hand. The driver has been arrested and is now en-route to custody.”

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Greater Manchester school to withdraw places for pupils who break lockdown rules

The headteacher has issued a warning letter

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Yew Tree Community School

A school has threatened to withdraw places for pupils who have told teachers they are visiting people from outside their households.

Yew Tree Community School in Oldham has said they will withdraw places for those children in school who have admitted to visiting friends, neighbours and family despite Covid-19 lockdown rules.

Headteacher Martine Buckley said she would take action when ‘parents were putting staff in danger’. 

Currently, schools are open to pupils who are listed as vulnerable or as children of key workers. Families can also form childcare bubbles with another household and children who live between two parents who live separately can move between households.

Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

However, other household mixing is forbidden.

Mrs Buckley began the letter by saying she was ‘upset’ to be writing this but that ‘I feel I must’. 

She continued: “Our lovely children are open and honest and they tell us about their lives and activities.

“A number of them are telling us that they are visiting friends, neighbours and family which is against the law.

“Our teachers and support staff are putting their own safety at risk to look after your children and they should be confident you are doing your bit to follow the lockdown rules.

“I am afraid I will have to withdraw the offer of a place in school to children whose parents are putting us in danger.”

Element 5 Digital / Unsplash

One man told the BBC that his two grandchildren who were at the school have been asked about their activities at home which was ‘out of order’. 

He said: “My granddaughters are pretty intimidated by the tone.

“Asking them questions like that and then the answers off the back of that. They come to a decision of whether they are going to displace them or not.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We expect schools to work with families to ensure all critical worker children are given access to a place if this is required. 

“We encourage all vulnerable children to attend.”

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Keir Starmer calls for all teachers to be vaccinated during the February half-term

Boris has rejected the suggestion.

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UK Parliament & Keir Starmer /Flickr

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls for all teachers to be vaccinated in the February half-term.

Responding to the prime minister, Starmer said Boris Johnson should ‘bring forward’ vaccines for teachers and school staff to fulfil the ‘national priority of reopening schools’. 

The Labour leader says he ‘welcomes’ any steps being taken towards reopening schools but is highly critical of the PM’s opening and closing of classrooms.

Starmer describes the government’s U-turns on schools as ‘the kind of nonsense that’s led to the highest death toll in Europe’.

He then repeated his calls to vaccinate teachers during the half-term, explaining that they should be given their first dose once the 14 million people in the top priority groups have had their first jab.

The government is aiming for over-70s, care home residents, frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable to have their first dose of the vaccine by February 15th, the start date for most schools’ half term. 

Starmer asked Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday: “Everybody agrees that reopening our schools should be a national priority. But that requires a plan, and the PM hasn’t got a plan.

“So as a first step, does he agree with me that once the first four categories and the most vulnerable have been vaccinated by mid-February, he should bring forward the vaccination of key workers and use the window of the February half-term to vaccinate all teachers and all school staff?”

Number 10/Flickr

Johnson rejected this, saying only teachers and school staff in the top nine groups will be given priority for the vaccine. 

Starmer criticised the PM saying that half term is a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to vaccinate teachers, but that he is ‘no wiser as to whether the PM thinks that’s a good idea or a bad idea’.

The prime minister insists that schools are not un-safe, explaining that the problem is they ‘bring communities together’ and ‘a large number of kids are a considerable vector of transmission’.

He added that the prioritisation of the vaccine should be up to experts not politicians, and that Starmer’s policy suggestion ‘would actually delay our route out of lockdown’.

Earlier today Boris Johnson confirmed that schools wouldn’t reopen before March 8th at the earliest.

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