Major incident declared in Greater Manchester over Covid-19 rise

A major incident has been declared by authorities in Greater Manchester as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise across the region.

Tameside and Oldham are two boroughs which have seen alarming spikes in recent days. 

As of Wednesday 29 July, Tameside's seven-day infection rate total per 100,000 population was 24.9. On 22 July, it was 10.7. 

Meanwhile, in the same period, Oldham's is by far the worst in the region at 58.1 as of 29 July. It stood at 38.6 seven days earlier. 

The development on Sunday evening follows gold command meetings involving senior figures from Greater Manchester Police, local authorities and other agencies over the weekend. 

The decision will ramp up the readiness of emergency and public services to respond to the escalating Covid-19 transmission rate in the region, but the measures that were announced last week have not changed and very much remain in place. 

Last Thursday, tighter coronavirus restrictions were imposed by the government across Greater Manchester, as well as parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 - in particular household transmission. The main change meant separate households are now banned from meeting each other indoors. 

Meanwhile, back on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed a further easing of restrictions which were due to come in on Saturday in England. 

GMP has said the decision has now been taken to declare a major incident in order to help agencies "respond as effectively as possible", while Manchester City Council has said that people living in the region "should not be alarmed". 

In a statement, council leader Sir Richard Leese 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."

GMP Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, chair of the Local Resilience Forum, said: “The Strategic Coordination Group met on Saturday, 1 August 2020 to discuss regulations in response to the new Covid-19 restrictions across Greater Manchester, declared by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday evening. 

"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 Greater Manchester Combined Authority said: "It is absolutely appropriate for us to maximise our resources in the drive to reverse the spike in infection which we have witnessed in the last seven to 10 days.

"The more we stick to the new guidelines and drive the R rate down, the quicker they will be removed."

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