Andy Burnham has urged the government to ‘go slow and go national’ in their approach to lifting national restrictions in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline the government’s roadmap to exit lockdown on Monday (February 22), with England operating under tight COVID restrictions for almost all of 2021 so far.
Among the first sectors expected to reopen is education – with the PM already touting March 8 as a potential return date for school pupils. It is widely expected that non-essential retailers will open before gyms and the hospitality sector, with the return of crowds to sports venues and nightclubs much further down the list.
UK COVID rates have plummeted from a 7-day moving average of over 59,000 to less than 13,000 in the space of a month.
However, cases in Greater Manchester are falling much slower than in other areas.
All ten boroughs have higher rates than the national average (133.2 cases per 100,000 people), with Tameside even recording a slight increase in the week to February 14.
And the region’s mayor is now warning the government to “move at the pace of the slowest” areas in order to avoid a stop-start approach to reopening the economy like in 2020.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Friday (February 19) morning, Burnham stated: “I would say [to the government] go carefully and go nationally – don’t return to tiers.
“Do not repeat the mistakes of 2020, where the national lockdown was lifted too early, certainly for parts of the north where the case rates were much higher.
“This year, we should proceed on a much more cautious basis – as I’m pleased to hear the Prime Minister saying himself – and that means looking at the places where case rates are highest before you take decisions to lift national lockdown.”
Burnham said that hurrying out of lockdown in 2020 may have attributed to the rapid reintroduction of measures in Manchester – which have been in place in one form or another since July.
He stated: “When we lifted national lockdown last year, case rates in the north were much higher than they were in London, and I think that explains why parts of the north including Greater Manchester went back under restrictions.
“I don’t think the old tiers worked when we had the original strains. Now we have new strains, they simply would not be able to withstand the level at which these new strains can spread.”
The PM said he would be focusing on ‘data, not dates’ when creating the lockdown exit plan, saying the relaxation of measures would be performed in stages.
Johnson said the exit route would be “cautious and prudent”, designed in “such a way to be irreversible.”
Around 16 million people in the country have now received their COVID-19 vaccination.
According to chairman of the UK Vaccines Taskforce Dr Clive Dix, the pace of the current rollout could see every adult receive their jab before September.
Holly Willoughby delivers honest and emotional statement addressing Phillip Schofield scandal on This Morning return
Holly Willoughby has officially addressed the ongoing Phillip Schofield scandal on her return to This Morning on Monday.
Making her first appearance since the pair both dropped off the show following Schofield’s admission that he had a relationship with a younger man who worked on the show, his former co-presenter jumped straight into the issue at the top of the show.
“Firstly, are you OK? I hope so. It feels very strange sitting here without Phil and I know that you might be feeling a lot like I have: shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the wellbeing on all sides of what’s been going on, and have lots of questions.
“You, me and all of us at This Morning gave our love and support to someone who was not telling the truth, who acted in a way that they themselves felt they had to resign from ITV and step down from a career they loved. That is a lot to process and it’s equally hard to see the toll that has taken on their own mental health.”
The 42-year-old went on to say, “I think what unites us all now is a desire to heal for the health and wellbeing of everyone. I hope that as we start this new chapter and get back to a place of warmth and magic that this show holds for all of us, we can find strength in each other.
“From my heart, can I just say thank you for all your kind messages and thank you for being here this morning. Myself, Josie, Dermot, Alison, Craig and everyone who works on this show will continue to work hard every single day to bring you the show that we love.”
Stand-in host Josie Gibson then hugged Holly and said: “All we can do now is be the family that we are”.
After making it through the statement, Holly and Josie then jumped back into the regularly scheduled programming as usual.
As for the scandal itself, Schofield recently gave an exclusive interview with the BBC admitting that his “career is over” and had “suicidal thoughts” after the story broke, as well as insisting that he hasn’t spoken with Holly since apart from sending her an apology via text following his own statement.
The 61-year-old continues to deny allegations that he groomed the man he maintained a relationship with for a number of years but ITV has stated that they are continuing to investigate the situation following his resignation.
Tribute paid to gran, 51, stabbed to death in broad daylight in Tameside
A 51-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in broad daylight last week has been named as Michelle Hodgkinson, as her family issue a heartbreaking tribute.
She has been described as ‘the most amazing, loving, selfless and funny daughter, mother, mother-in-law, sister, auntie and most recently a nanna’.
Michelle, or ‘our Shelly B’ had been walking along Edge Lane on Friday 2 June when she was approached by a male and stabbed.
Emergency services rushed to the scene but tragically, Michelle died at the scene.
She had just been going about her day, walking to meet her mum so that she could take her shopping.
A 28-year-old man has been arrested arrested on suspicion of murder and has since been detained under the Mental Health Act.
Michelle was a community-driven individual with a long history of charity work and volunteering, as well as being her family’s ‘biggest cheerleader’.
In tribute to her issued through GMP, Michelle’s family said: “Everyone who knows Michelle is in utter shock at the attack she endured and how horrific her last moments were. Our Shelly B was the most amazing, loving, selfless and funny daughter, mother, mother-in-law, sister, auntie and most recently a nanna. It was a privilege to have been known and loved by her.
“She loved helping people in her community and was known for volunteering as an appropriate adult, her charity work and loved creating hampers to make people smile. She would be there for anyone and the day she was taken from us, she was doing just that – walking to meet her mum to take her shopping and to go for a coffee.
“Our family and friends are heartbroken. In one moment our world has crumbled and will never be the same. We will support each other, and we thank and appreciate the love and support shown by our family and friends. Please hold your loved ones close, tell them you love them and make memories.
“Words cannot describe how much she will be missed. Our biggest cheerleader, our confidant, our rock – she will never be forgotten. We love you to the moon and back! We’ll do everything we can to get justice. Love you forever and always!”