The differences in imposing Regional and National lockdowns

The pitfalls in introducing lockdowns in England and wales have been played out in the media over the last 10 days or so, and again highlights the diverging policies in managing coronavirus amongst the governments of the four Nations.

After 10 days of talks and negotiations in the glare of constant publicity, Boris Johnson announced yesterday that 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester would be the first to be forced into tier three, England’s highest level of alert. This was against the wishes the Labour Mayor Andy Burnham and local leaders. Liverpool City Region and Lancashire are the only other areas currently under the tightest restrictions, and South Yorkshire will move to Tier 3 on Saturday.

A man wearing a mask in Deansgate, Manchester
The 2.8m people in Greater Manchester are the first to be forced into higher restrictions against local leaders’ objections

The political wrangling has not been pretty – here is the main gist of the argument. The prime minister said the region would receive £22m as part of a “comprehensive package of support” for enforcement measures and the local test and trace work. Yesterday evening, Mr Hancock told MPs that a separate sum of £60m was “proportionate” to what the other areas in tier three had been given, and that it was still available. Local politicians in Greater Manchester originally submitted a request for £90m but lowered their demand to £65m – a figure described by Mr Burnham as the “bare minimum”.

Cases per 100,000 people in Manchester are 420 with Rochdale @ 480, the highest rate in Greater Manchester. Rates in Liverpool are 583, with Knowsley @ 660, the highest in greater Liverpool and the highest in England. Rates in Sheffield are 395 with Barnsley the highest in greater Sheffield @ 415. Nottingham @ 663 remains the highest in Tier 2 and is sure to move up to Tier 3 soon. Source: Public Health England. The rate is the number of cases per 100,000 in the seven days to 17 October 2020.

Graphic on measures in the new three-tier system for England

When the restrictions come into force in Greater Manchester, about 7.5 million people in England will be living under the highest level of coronavirus alert. That includes 1.5 million people in the Liverpool City Region and 1.5 million people in Lancashire, and 1.4 million in South Yorkshire. click full article

John Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told MPs on Wednesday that without further measures England’s tiered Covid-19 strategy would lead to high numbers of new infections every day, putting the NHS under strain and driving up the death toll. “If you look at where we are, there is no way we come out of this wave now without counting our deaths in the tens of thousands,” Edmunds, an epidemiologist, told the joint hearing of the Commons science and technology committee, and the health and social care committee.

Asked about the government’s three-tier local Covid alert levels, Edmunds said it was not a strategy he would follow. The restrictions in tier 3 might at best bring the R value (the average number of infections caused by someone infected with Sars-CoV-2) close to 1, he said, but that meant regions that were placed in the top tier when their cases soared would continue to have high levels of new infections, increased pressure on hospitals, and high death rates. “What that means is we all end up at a high level of incidence where hospitals are really overstretched and we have large numbers of deaths. That for me is the logical conclusion of the strategy we are following – and I would not follow that strategy,” he said.

Edmunds argued that if regions imposed a strict two-week circuit breaker first, they could potentially halve the rate of new infections and hold cases at a lower level where the NHS was under less strain. Alternatively, he said, the entire country could move to tier 3 to prevent places with low levels of infection reaching the situation in Liverpool now and elsewhere in the north of England. click full article

In Wales, the National fire-break announced by the First Minister on Monday, together with a financial package was generally accepted, except in the low infection areas. However overall, Wales is facing nowhere near the same infection rates as some other areas of the UK (see above). In a table of the four nations, Wales comes fourth. Pembrokeshire in the far west has one of the lowest case rates for coronavirus in the whole of the UK, at 43.7 per 100,000 people. It is ranked just 353rd out of 377 UK local authority areas, and is only beaten by Ceredigion for having the lowest rate in Wales. click full article

Firebreak rules

In view of Professor Edmunds dire warnings above, it could be argued that the Welsh government have done exactly the right thing, and that the North of England is doomed. Time will tell. Welsh ministers have said they cannot rule out imposing another firebreak lockdown early in 2021 if Covid-19 starts spreading quickly again at Christmas. click full article

Central Newport during lockdown
Wales will be in lockdown from this Friday until 9 November

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