MP calls for funeral restrictions in Oldham to be relaxed

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 3:08pm

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

An MP has called on the health secretary to relax some coronavirus restrictions and allow up to 30 people to attend funerals in Oldham.

Jim McMahon (pictured), who represents Oldham West and Royton, has written to Matt Hancock asking him to increase the numbers of mourners at funerals.

The MP has also asked that residents should be allowed to meet their friends and family outside as long as social distancing is in place.

In his letter to Matt Hancock, the Oldham MP states that ‘there is real confusion about the complexity of the rules applied to differing areas’.

He specifically highlights the funeral restrictions, which are different in both Bolton and Oldham to the rest of Greater Manchester.

In Bolton only six people can attend a funeral, while this is currently limited to 20 for Oldham residents.

As of the week to September 29, Manchester has overtaken Bolton to have the highest infection rate in the region, while Oldham has dropped to fourth at 182, below Bury with 192.

Mr McMahon said that the ‘patchwork of restrictions is a mess’ as he called for an extra ten mourners to be allowed to attend funerals in the borough.

“It doesn’t make sense to me or to any of my constituents that there are places in Greater Manchester with a higher infection rate than ours but they are subject to different restrictions,” he added.

“When the government changed the guidance nationally they recognised just how distressing funerals are at the moment, and whilst they changed the limit on the number of guests at weddings, the number of attendees at a funeral stayed at 30.

“But in Oldham it’s even lower at 20, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to ask that Oldham is brought into line with other areas and we show a bit of compassion at the moment.”

On August 21 it was announced that stricter measures were being introduced in Oldham after a spike in coronavirus cases meant it had the highest infection rate in the country.

Households were banned from socialising with other people indoors, in private gardens or hospitality venues, and strongly advised not to meet anywhere – even outside or in public spaces.

However Mr McMahon says that more than a month later, with infection rates now even higher than they were when those measures were introduced, they should also be reviewed.

Between September 20 and 26, Oldham had 432 new cases of Covid-19 identified, an increase on the previous week’s total of 365.

“The pandemic has been hard for all of us, not being able to see our friends and family for months and then having to keep up with changing restrictions,” the MP said.

“Since the social lockdown was introduced in Oldham five weeks ago our infection rate has trebled so my constituents are rightly asking that whether they are having any impact.

“So allowing people to meet outside, with social distancing and other appropriate common sense measures in place, will be good for our mental and physical health.”

He added: “All future measures must be supported by the evidence, otherwise people are just going to continue to be confused.

“I’m not arguing that Oldham should be released from all of the extra restrictions, it’s clear from the infection rates that we do have a problem but we also have to be realistic and recognise that these measures need to be clear and make sense to people otherwise they just won’t trust us.”

However a report in The Times said that ministers were considering a ‘total social lockdown plan’ for the north with pubs shut and a ban on any meeting with other households in coming weeks.

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

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