Covid: Manchester pub closures ‘won’t stop infection rate rising’

Manchester’s MPs have told the prime minister they do not support plans to place the city under strict new lockdown measures.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a three-tier system on Monday.

Though yet to be confirmed, Manchester is expected to be put in tier three, with restrictions such as pub closures and curbs on travel.

Ministers have defended their approach but the five MPs said «blanket closures» would not limit the spread.

The group sent a letter to the prime minister before his statement on the new system, where every English region will be categorised according to the severity of its coronavirus cases.

It has been signed by Lucy Powell, Afzal Khan, Graham Stringer, Jeff Smith and Mike Kane, who all represent Labour.

They said Manchester’s recent surge in infections had largely been among its student population, and these outbreaks were being managed in confined «households» such as halls of residence.

Hospitality ‘not to blame’

Most of the city’s other cases had been caught in household settings, they said.

The letter said transmission in hospitality settings accounted for «a very small proportion» of infections.

«We are concerned that closing all regulated premises will not only lead to gatherings being pushed underground, but won’t have a sizable effect on virus transmission rates,» the MPs said.

The group said they had been reassured in Parliament «that confined outbreaks would not be a reason for tighter restrictions for the wider population.»

Putting Manchester in tier three would have a «devastating impact on jobs, livelihoods and businesses,» they added.

Schools and universities are expected to remain open under the plans.


image captionLocal politicians have asked the government not to «throw our local economy to the wall»

The letter states that city officials had proposed «a local, intense track and trace» system and «well-resourced door-to-door activity» to communicate the guidance.

«This would need to sit with the economic support available for people to self-isolate,» the MPs added.

‘Treated differently’

This weekend, political leaders in northern England said Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement – that the government would pay two-thirds of workers’ wages at firms forced to shut – was «insufficient».

The national furlough scheme launched in March paid 80% of wages.

David Greenhalgh, the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, said: «The North feels like they are being treated differently.

«We know our rates are high – we are not underestimating that – but we cannot throw our local economy to the wall. I urge government to respect that.»

On Saturday, the mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region and North of Tyne said the Chancellor’s scheme would lead to «severe hardship in the run-up to Christmas».

The number of reported coronavirus cases in Manchester dropped slightly to 2,641 in the week to 8 October, compared with 2,933 in the previous week.


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