Major incident declared in Greater Manchester as coronavirus infection rates rise

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy

A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester due to increases in coronavirus infection rates.

Officials from Greater Manchester’s Strategic Coordination Group met for discussions this weekend following new Covid-19 restrictions for areas of the North West of England, announced by the government late on Thursday night.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey, chairman of the Local Resilience Forum, said there are concerns about infection rates in "multiple localities" across Greater Manchester.

But a spokesman for Greater Manchester Combined Authority said the major incident is "no more than a boost to our capabilities" and stressed measures announced on Thursday have not changed.

The whole of Greater Manchester has been placed under tighter lockdown measures. Credit: PA Images

Assistant Chief Constable Bailey said: "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."

He added: "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."

The aim was to "reduce infection rates and bring Greater Manchester back to as near a state of normality as current times allow," he said.

ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy explains what the announcement means:

Late on Thursday night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire would no longer be able to meet each other inside their homes or in gardens.

The government faced criticised over its "failure to communicate" the changes to restrictions - announced on the eve of Eid celebrations for Muslims.

  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, was critical of the government for 'removing its shielding policy' the day after announcing new restrictions for some areas:

Before the major incident was declared on Sunday night, ITV News spoke to Andy Burnham - Mayor of Greater Manchester - on the government's handling of the changes.

Mr Burnham said people in his area "on the whole" had been brilliant and that he rejected "efforts to blame some for breaking lockdown rules".

The former Labour MP criticised the government's decision to lift shielding measures, such as food and medicine deliveries, for vulnerable people in Manchester and other areas now under tougher lockdown restrictions.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said people "should not be alarmed" by the announcement of the major incident.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening Post, he said: "This is standard practice for complex situations which require a multi-agency response".

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Combined Authority added: "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."

People shopping in Oldham, the town in Greater Manchester has seen cases of coronavirus rise in the area. Credit: PA

According to a rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 compiled by the PA news agency, Oldham has the second highest rate of new cases per 100,000 people out of all local authorities in England.

The seven-day rate in Oldham jumped from 41.6 to 62.8, with 148 new cases - behind only Blackburn with Darwen.

Other areas reporting notable week-on-week jumps include, in Greater Manchester:

  • Trafford (up from 31.3 to 38.1, with 90 new cases)

  • Manchester (up from 18.6 to 34.3, with 188 new cases)

  • Tameside (up from 12.9 to 28.4, with 64 new cases)

  • Stockport (up from 13.7 to 22.6, with 66 new cases)

Shoppers in Manchester the day after stricter restrictions are introduced. Credit: AP

The development comes as reports suggested Boris Johnson has ordered officials to work-up a plan for avoiding a second national lockdown - which could see millions told to stay at home again.

The prime minister is considering asking the elderly to shield once again and is mulling lockdown-like conditions for London should there be a second wave of coronavirus infections, The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times said.

But Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the reports were "just speculation" adding that expanding the shielding scheme was "not something that is being actively considered".