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Tory MPs write to Matt Hancock about Manchester’s mayor locks

Tory MPs have argued with Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham over his claims that it would be ‘impossible’ to lift lockdown restrictions in just one municipality prior to a review today.

The authorities in Greater Manchester declared a major incident this week after an increase in the number of coronavirus infections and new measures were introduced.

This meant that people from different households were told not to meet in their homes and gardens, while they were also prohibited from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other catering establishments.

Mayor Burnham said on Wednesday that it would be “impossible” to lift tighter lock restrictions in Wigan, despite the municipality having the lowest contamination rate in the metropolitan county.

Wigan has the lowest infection rate in Greater Manchester, but the restrictions will not be relaxed

Wigan has the lowest infection rate in Greater Manchester, but the restrictions will not be relaxed

Mayor Burnham said on Wednesday that it would be “impossible” to lift stricter lock restrictions in one municipality

However, enraged local conservative MPs objected to his comments, writing Health Minister Matt Hancock, claiming that Mr Burnham’s ‘one size fits all’ approach is ‘not only wrong, but dangerous’.

They added that the lockdown measures in Leicester were only applied in certain areas and gradually lifted when it was deemed safe.

That, in turn, caused an angry response from the mayor, who said it was “so selfish to politicize a serious public health problem like this.”

It is because findings of a revision of current rules affecting parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, as well as Leicester and Greater Manchester, will be made public today.

The letter to Mr. Hancock was signed by MPs James Grundy, Sir Graham Brady, James Daly, Christian Wakeford, Chris Clarkson, Chris Green, Mark Logan, Mary Robinson and William Wragg.

It said, “We are writing to express our grave concern at the remarks made by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham about the recent measures taken to combat COVID-19 in Greater Manchester during his press conference on Wednesday afternoon August 5.

Enraged local conservative MPs objected to the mayor's comments and have written a letter to Health Minister Matt Hancock in the photo claiming that Mr Burnham's 'one size fits all' approach is not only wrong, but also dangerous'.

Enraged local conservative MPs objected to the mayor's comments and have written a letter to Health Minister Matt Hancock in the photo claiming that Mr Burnham's 'one size fits all' approach is not only wrong, but also dangerous'.

Enraged local conservative MPs objected to the mayor’s comments and have written a letter to Health Minister Matt Hancock in the photo claiming that Mr Burnham’s ‘one size fits all’ approach is not only wrong, but also dangerous’.

During the press conference, Andy Burnham was quoted by journalist Jen Williams of Manchester Evening News as stating that it was “impossible” to lift restrictions in a single municipality, implying that the new COVID-19 measures in Great Britain Manchester should continue to exist throughout the conurbation, even in communities that may not have registered a single case for weeks, until the outbreak is addressed everywhere in the metropolitan province. This would be an unacceptable approach.

First, the claims made by the Mayor of Greater Manchester are absolutely false. As you know, the measures applicable to the recent Leicester outbreak did not apply to the whole county, but only to Leicester City and the local authorities of Oadby and Wigston, and the measures were later lifted in Oadby and Wigston, while some measures remain in effect in Leicester.

In addition, the new measures in the neighboring county of Lancashire and the neighboring metropolitan county of West Yorkshire only took effect in the parts of those counties most affected by COVID-19. As has already been shown, it is perfectly possible to vary the measures per municipality based on local authorities, based on the available evidence.

Andy Burnham’s strategy of a ‘one size fits all’ approach across Greater Manchester, regardless of local infection rates, is not only wrong, but dangerous. This strategy risks spreading resources too thinly across the agglomeration, including in areas with few or no cases.

“A more sophisticated approach is needed, focusing on resources in the areas of greatest need. Measures should be taken per district and per city in districts, where there are only one or two coronavirus ‘hotspots’, but rates in other parts of the same municipality are low.

The letter Tory MPs wrote to Matt Hancock

The letter Tory MPs wrote to Matt Hancock

The letter Tory MPs wrote to Matt Hancock

The letter Tory MPs wrote to Matt Hancock

MPs in the letter, pictured left and right, added that the closure measures in Leicester were only applied in certain areas and were gradually lifted when it was deemed safe to do so

“If resources are not properly targeted, meaning there are inadequate measures in places where the problems are greatest, and wasting resources where they are not currently needed threatens a wider outbreak in Greater Manchester, will only lead to tougher measures for ‘full lockdown’ as imposed in Leicester. We must strive to avoid this at all costs.

“The Mayor of Greater Manchester has not understood that there is a great deal of variation in infection rates and the resulting need in Greater Manchester and is trying to impose a crude and ineffective strategy across the region.

“We strongly urge you to take swift action to address the obvious flaws in the strategy he proposed, to avoid further restrictions being introduced.”

In a scathing response, Mr Burnham accused MPs of “putting politics on public security.”

He wrote, “I have seen the letter you sent to the health secretary today. Given the efforts I have made to make myself available to you during this crisis, it is disappointing to say the least that you did not want to discuss your concerns with me before posting your letter in the public domain. You accused me of pursuing a “crude and ineffective strategy for the whole area”.

The letter caused an angry response from the mayor, who said it was “so selfish to politicize a serious public health problem like this.”

“May I remind you that the strategy you are describing, of imposing restrictions across Greater Manchester, was not my decision but a decision taken by your own government and presented to me at the end of Thursday.

“That same government, of which you are all part, has today chosen to uphold that decision after a review of the latest evidence.

“If you choose to write to me the way you have, it is clear that you all disagree with your own government’s decision, but do not have the courage to say it.

Instead, you are clearly trying to avert the blame and politicize this issue. I would consider this fairly low behavior at any time. But in the midst of a global pandemic, if I try to work across borders and provide cross-party support to your government for the tough decisions it has to make, that’s a contempt.

“I can assure you that it was not easy to support your government, especially when communication about the new policy was so confused. But I did that based on the evidence and the need to put people’s health first. Early action can now prevent a much more limited disconnection later on the line.

“You wonder why approaching this on a Greater Manchester basis is justified. This is because we have an increasing number of cases in nine out of our ten municipalities. The same districts are interconnected. Most people routinely cross city limits daily.

“Even in places where the number of cases is low, they are on the doorstep of places where they are much higher. Therefore, I do not currently believe that it is possible to view a congregation separately and this was the point I was making for the Manchester Evening News.

“If the facts change, and we would see declines in a cluster of boroughs, that could of course be revised. You may recall that I made this point during the call by MEPs last Friday, to which many of you have joined.

“I will continue to do what I can to protect the health of our residents, no matter how difficult. If that means working with a conservative government across political dividing lines, then I do and I will not be distracted by local Tory MPs who put politics on public security. ‘

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