The government is in danger of losing public support for its approach to local lockdowns without an urgent re-think of the policy, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has warned.
Andy Burnham has called on the government to open negotiations with Mayors and local leaders across the country on the proposed new "three tiers" policy for restrictions.
An announcement on it is expected by the Department of Health next week, with the roll-out of the new tiers expected in mid-October.
Areas that fall into tier one will have fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 of population and will need to adhere to national restrictions - such as the "rule of six" and social distancing.
Tier two would kick in where cases are above 100 per 100,000. Restrictions for these areas would be similar to those currently in place in large parts of northern England, such as bans on household meetings.
And tier three areas would have significantly higher rates and would face full lockdowns - excluding schools and essential businesses, like supermarkets, as well as places of worship.
Mr Burnham (pictured below) believes the new approach could improve public understanding of the restrictions in different areas.
But he has warned that it will not be acceptable if the policy is imposed by Whitehall without meaningful consultation, which he says has not happened so far.
The Mayor has set out five key conditions on which he feels that the new system will need to be based if it is to command public trust and support. These are:
- Clear thresholds for entry/exit from the different tiers
- The ability for local areas in tiers 2 and 3 to request local control of the Test and Trace system, with resources transferring from the national system
- Agreed levels of extra financial support for councils in tiers 2 and 3
- A package of support for local businesses affected by local restrictions
- A local furlough scheme where businesses are required to close
Mr Burnham said: "Without urgent change, the North of England will be thrown into one of the most difficult winters we have ever experienced, with the risk of significant harm to health and our economy. It’s that serious.
"We are heading into the winter months with a Test and Trace system which is still not working and the risk of redundancies rising sharply as the furlough scheme comes to an end. Without extra support for individuals, business and councils, it could be a winter of dangerous discontent.
"I remain ready to work with the Government to build public support for its approach to local lockdowns, but that requires meaningful consultation and proper support for the areas affected. That is not happening at the moment.
"We have now reached a point where there is a real risk of the Government losing the public in the North because of the perceived unfairness of its local lockdown policies. We can’t let that happen. There is still time to put in place better measures to protect communities across the North this winter but time is running out."
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