Mayors say ‘too early’ to lift restrictions in North West

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions comes “too early” for the region, which is working hard to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, and Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said in their letter to Johnson that the North West has among the highest rates of infection – known as the reproduction rate, or ‘R Rate’ – in the country, with its two large and densely populated conurbations.

The letter, sent on Tuesday, states: “Here in the North West, we experienced the highest number of new cases last week and are not yet on the clear downward trajectory seen in other parts of the country.

“For that reason, we are concerned that the decision to relax the Stay at Home message may have come too early for the North West and could expose our residents to higher levels of risk of infection.”

In a virtual press conference today, Burnham said that the R Rate in Greater Manchester stands at 0.73, above the estimated 0.5 figure elsewhere in the UK.

The letter also calls for publication of the R Rate at a regional and sub-regional level on a regular basis, to allow people and public authorities to “make informed decisions about the risk”, and decide whether or not to take a more cautious approach to the relaxation of the lockdown rules.

“By agreeing to this move, we could at least work to help our residents mitigate the risks they might face,” the letter states. “It would also reduce the risks of regional or local lockdowns, which we both continue to oppose.”

There was a disappointing “lack of meaningful consultation and advance knowledge” of the policy change Johnson announced on Sunday night, which prevented the Manchester and Liverpool leaders from taking quick decisions on policing and public transport systems in the city regions, the letter adds.

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