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.
Football fans call out ‘tone-deaf’ FA TikTok for mocking ‘life-threatening’ head injury
Football fans are calling out the official FA Cup TikTok account for mocking a serious head injury suffered by a Stockport County player earlier this week.
The Hatters beat Charlton Athletic in fine fashion with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday, 7 December, with Will Collar’s hattrick (the club’s first since 2019) sending them through to the next round of the cup.
However, another notable moment from the night was right back Macauley Southam-Hales’ collision with advertising hoarders after a shove from Charlton captain George Dobson.
As the likes of County fan Joel Ward wrote on Twitter, many online were quick to slam the clip for joking about an injury that hospitalised the player, the consensus being that it isn’t a “great look” for the FA.
While many reacting in the comments recognised that Dobson didn’t intend to hurt Southam-Hales by shepherding the ball out of play, the Stockport defender does hit the predominantly metal structure with some force and was left in clear discomfort following the smash.
The video itself has since been removed from the official account following the backlash but people are still reacting as the clip continues to be reshared on social media.
The clip was branded as everything from “disgusting” and “disgraceful” to “simply unbelievable”.
What’s most concerning is that despite the recent push to promote awareness surrounding concussions, brain trauma and even heading the ball – which, historically, haven’t been properly monitored in football – whoever posted the video on behalf of the FA didn’t consider the very serious nature of the incident.
As alluded to above, perhaps what makes the post even more shocking and tone-deaf is that it comes just weeks after Bath City player forward Alex Fletcher was placed in intensive care following an almost identical accident.
The 23-year-old underwent life-saving brain surgery and although he has since been discharged from the hospital, he is said to have a “long road to recovery ahead of him”.
County confirmed that despite being the all-clear pitchside, Southam-Hales was taken to the hospital as a precaution after he suffered significant swelling around the neck area. Nevertheless, as we know all too well, it could have been much worse.
As for the FA, they have now apologised for the inappropriate attempt at humour, confirming that they have removed the video from all official accounts, admitting that “it should never have been published and assuring that they will “review [their] processes to ensure this never happens again.”
You can watch the full highlights from Stockport County vs Charlton Athletic HERE but we’d recommend you watch Alan Shearer reminding everyone who plays football to be more vigilant when it comes to head injuries.
Andy Burnham wants to help more girls get into football
Andy Burnham has urged schools to do more to encourage young girls to get into football.
The Greater Manchester Mayor was speaking to Sky News‘ Kay Burley on Thursday, 8 December as he discussed the importance of promoting more women in football and sport, in general.
Burnham said that himself, the FA and notable women’s football advocates like former keeper Karen Bardsley are “determined” to make sure the buzz following the Women’s Euros isn’t just a flash in the pan.
With the England men’s team currently trying to replicate the Lionesses‘ success as they prepare for the quarter-final of the 2022 World Cup, he went on to emphasise the lasting memories football can create on a global scale.
The Mayor went on to say that with the help of schools across the UK, they hope to “make sure that the success the Lionesses had in the summer becomes a permanent legacy”, imploring schools, the sporting community and the nation at large “not let those summer memories fade”.
Insisting that he already feels the heroics of Euro 2022 have already had an impact when it comes to inspiring more girls to get into football.
He said that the uptake among “women in football” since the tournament has been “amazing” but warned educators and parents not to “leave it to chance” and provide the support to make “real change”.