Economic fallout from tighter Covid measures 'could be worse than Thatcher'

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 7:29pm

By Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter @niallgriffiths

The government's introduction of tougher coronavirus measures in the north of England 'could do more harm than Margaret Thatcher', according to Andy Burnham.

Greater Manchester's mayor has warned that the north-south divide will ‘massively increase’ in the winter if millions of people in the region are still under the restrictions without further support.

Mr Burnham said places like Bolton, where the hospitality industry has been shut down despite infection rates being higher elsewhere, had been ‘forgotten about’ by national politicians.

The approach in Bolton has also left the Conservative council’s leader David Greenhalgh ‘incredibly frustrated and angry’ with the government.

Mr Burnham told a press conference on Wednesday that people were losing faith in the lack of consistency being shown and that a ‘sense of injustice’ was growing in Bolton.

He said: “Either the government closes hospitality in areas of higher case rates with full compensation, and if they’re not prepared [to do that] they should let Bolton’s open.

“It’s one or the other, as things stand we’re going to see the north-south divide massively increase and widen here.

“If we look back at it in years to come you’ll think that Covid-19 did more harm to the north of England than Margaret Thatcher and what she did in the 1980s.

“This is a real danger that is staring us right in the face, and a government that says it wants to level up cannot put the north of England under restrictions without support.

“It’s pretty much as simple as that.”

Bolton came under stricter restrictions at a time when their weekly infection rate was 128.3 cases per 100,000 people. Since then, it has risen to 206.9 per 100,000.

But the borough no longer has the highest rate of infection in England, with Burnley, Knowsley, Liverpool and Newcastle all reporting more than 250 cases per 100,000.

With the national test and trace system that is ‘still not functioning properly’ Mr Burnham expressed fears about the months ahead.

“It’s October tomorrow, and we’re now looking at the most difficult winter we’ve ever known in this country,” he said.

“We’re not where we need to be in terms of readiness to face that winter.”

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