53,577 NW cases as leaders plead to delay lockdown lifting in two areas

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the North West has risen to more than 53,500 as leaders urge the Government to postpone the easing of lockdown restrictions in two boroughs.

The total number of positive cases across Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cumbria, and Cheshire now stands at 53,577 – up by 1,095 since before the Bank Holiday weekend on Friday, August 28.

The area managed by Lancashire County Council now has 8,268 positive tests of the virus. In Blackpool there are 1,105 while in Blackburn with Darwen the number has risen to 1,855.

Pendle again recorded the biggest increase in the county while there was also a big rise in Rossendale cases.

The Valley now has the fifth highest infection rate of local authorities in England, behind Pendle, Bolton Oldham and above Blackburn with Darwen, Rochdale and Manchester who are all in the top 10.

Twelve of Lancashire’s 14 boroughs recorded at least one new case since yesterday while Cumbria’s tally rose to 3,040 after one district announced a new positive test.

The data is based on people being tested both through ‘Pillar 1’ – in hospitals – and Pillar 2 – drive-through test centres and swabs sent by post.

Total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus by North West borough as of Tuesday, September 1:

There are 11,228 cases in Lancashire, 2,429 in Bolton, 1,603in Bury, 2398 in Cheshire East, 2,149 in Cheshire West and Chester, 3,040 in Cumbria, 744 in Halton, 1,086 in Knowsley, 2,885 in Liverpool, 4,338 in Manchester, 2,945 in Oldham, 2,277 in Rochdale, 1,832 in Salford, 1,699 in Sefton, 1,291 in St Helens, 1,990 in Stockport, 1,956 in Tameside, 1,709 in Trafford, 1,425 in Warrington, 2,335 in Wigan and 2,218 in Wirral

The figures come as leaders in Greater Manchester call to postpone the relaxation of additional Covid-19 restrictions in both Bolton and Trafford just hours before measures are due to be lifted.

Social gatherings between two homes were due to resume for the first time in weeks from midnight tonight in Bolton and Trafford, but a sharp increase in the local infection rate has led to officials asking the Government for a delay.

They are due to join Hyndburn, Burnley and Stockport in falling into line with national social distancing rules.

The rate of new Covid-19 cases in Bolton has jumped from 18.4 per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 22 to 59.1 in the seven days to August 29, with 170 new cases. The rate in Trafford has risen from 19.4 to 35.4, with 84 new cases.

Analysis showed that new cases in Bolton were spread across the borough and not limited to a single area, community, or place of work, said the town’s council.

Infections between different households appear to be the main cause of the spike with people aged 18-49 representing the overwhelming majority of new cases, it added.

Conservative leader of Bolton Council, Councillor David Greenhalgh, said: “We urged the Government to lift Bolton out of the additional restrictions at a time when infection rates were low.

“This was the right decision at the time.

“However, there has been a sudden and unforeseeable rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Bolton.

“We have always been led by the data, which means we have no choice but to act quickly to keep everyone safe.”

Any reversal in the plans would also mean that certain businesses, including those offering close contact services, will not reopen as planned.

Council leaders in Trafford had recommended that restrictions be maintained to wait for more evidence of a sustained downward trend in positive cases but were overruled by the Government.

Labour council leader Andrew Western has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to “urgently request clarity” on the Government’s position on Trafford.

In his letter, Mr Western said: “Sadly I must highlight to you that Trafford has now returned to the Government’s own amber zone in terms of cases of 100,000 population, and now has a significantly higher rate of cases than some other Greater Manchester boroughs who are not due to see restrictions lifted tomorrow.

“In short, this decision has caused chaos and confusion that not only impacts potentially on the health of my residents but on the likelihood of compliance in neighbouring boroughs that now have a lower infection rate than Trafford.

“The proposed arrangements now make little sense.

“The system has been undermined by the Government’s decision-making processes.”

He added he was “very disappointed” that its representations to Government last week were “completely ignored” along with “two of our three local MPs, two of our three opposition group leaders and our director of public health”.

Mr Western said it “only serves to exacerbate fears that national government never intended to meaningfully consider such views but rather to only have regard for the views of Conservative MPs in the areas affected”.

Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is made up of the 10 Greater Manchester councils and Mayor Andy Burnham, has called on the Government to agree on an exit strategy from the local restrictions on household gatherings “as soon as safely possible”, amid concerns the piecemeal lifting is causing confusion.

Mr Burnham has written to the Health Secretary offering help on targeted test and trace in the most affected communities.

A spokesperson for the GMCA said: “It is clear that more targeted, hyper-local door-to-door action is more effective than broad geographical restrictions. That is why the Mayor and Leaders want to agree an exit strategy with the Government for the current restrictions.

“However, before that is in place, it is accepted that the restrictions will need to continue in eight boroughs in the short term.

“As soon as practically and safely possible, we want to see the whole of Greater Manchester coming back into line with the rest of country but with funding to provide enhanced local interventions where they are needed.”

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