Andy Burnham calls on Government to focus on social care settings

Both Covid-19 deaths and alerts from care homes about the killer virus have doubled in the space of a week in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham the mayor of the region said.

Cases of Covid-19, were up from 2,263 in the last week to 3,817 as of Wednesday, with deaths up in the same period from 279 to 592.

Alerts to Public Health England from care homes, to do with an outbreak or cluster of coronavirus cases were 83 last week, but now stood at 182, Mr Burnham said during a weekly briefing of reporters on the regional response to the pandemic.

He said there was growing concern about the situation in social care and the figures for Greater Manchester showed the need for more testing in care homes and more delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mr Burnham said more testing for care homes, announced today by Health Secretary Matt Hancock was welcome but there are still two major gaps in the government approach.

One was still the "faltering" and irregular supply of PPE to adult social care which is still a "hand-to-mouth" operation.

Secondly was the lack of up to date information because though local councils were in touch with each care home in their area, more data was needed to operate an early warning system and supply of PPE to target resources more efficiently.

"We believe there is now a need for a much greater, stronger, more urgent focus on social care," he said.

He also cited "gaps" in the economic support announced by the Government, citing a lack of support for people who have become recently self-employed, around 250,000 nationally, people not eligible for furlough payments because they had recently changed jobs and on businesses sharing work spaces and missing out on business rates relief.

He said the Government appeared to be changing language and backtracking from the earlier promise from Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do "whatever it takes" to help people through the pandemic as the economy ground to a halt.

He added: "I say this in the spirit of supporting much of what the Government has done but I think it is absolutely right, this far in, I speak up for those who don't feel they are getting the support they need.

"I wish the Government could go back to its commitment to helping everybody through this, that nobody would be forgotten and that again would build the national unity I think we need to see.

"If the Government wants to continue to hold the country together as it has done so far, then we really need to see a change back to where we were a few weeks ago.

"About trying to look after every household, trying to look after every business, meeting the costs local authorities are facing.

"Let's get back to a sense of everybody being in this together."