July 19 spells the end for the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK – marking the final step on a roadmap out of a national lockdown which has stretched on for seven months.
Social distancing is being stopped. Mass gatherings are being permitted. And nightclubs are all reopening. Life is apparently heading towards something resembling normality once again. But it’s all happening at a peculiar time.
COVID-19 cases are at their highest point since January – prompting some to argue that certain restrictions should remain in place.
The government has already postponed its ‘Freedom Day’ by a month – with the UK originally scheduled to come out of restrictions on June 21. But whilst infection rates continue to spike, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has argued that the reopening should now go ahead – stating that “if we couldn’t open up in the coming weeks, then when could we?”
The biggest point of contention, however, has remained the use of face coverings.
With that in mind, here are the restrictions for public transport in Manchester.
Do I have to wear a mask on the Metrolink?
Face coverings will remain compulsory on Greater Manchester’s Metrolink service beyond July 19.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham confirmed earlier this week that wearing a mask will be required across the network until further notice.
Failure to comply with these Conditions of Carriage could see passengers refused travel and/or fined up to £100.
Burnham has also been working with other Mayors in England as part of a campaign to encourage the government to reverse its decision on masks nationwide – saying the “best solution is to continue the national requirement” for face coverings on all transport.
The Mayor stated: “There are around 200,000 people in Greater Manchester who are clinically vulnerable and I believe the Government’s decision to drop the requirement to wear face masks on public transport could put those people more at risk when using public transport, or force them off altogether.
“I do not believe they should be put in that unfair position.
“I have been listening to people’s concerns and, in response, have decided to continue to require the wearing of face coverings on Metrolink.”
Do I have to wear a mask on the bus or train?
It is up to the transport operator as to whether the use of masks will be enforced on buses or trains in Greater Manchester – as they do not fall under the remit of the Mayor.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents major bus and coach operators such as National Express and Megabus, said it will not be making masks a requirement past July 19.
A CPT statement reads: “We expect that many people, especially in busy places, will follow the Prime Minister’s call to continue to wear a face covering as a courtesy to others.
“Passengers, though, will find it difficult to understand why the Prime Minister has singled out public transport as somewhere to wear a face covering when a range of other activities share its characteristics.
“We now need to see clear guidance for operators and customers but, in the absence of regulations, it is important that we respect everyone’s right to choose whether to wear a face covering.”
Train industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced that most domestic train operators, such as Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Southeastern will not require passengers to use face coverings on board.
An RDG spokesman said: “Rail companies will ask people to follow the Government guidance and, out of respect for others, wear face coverings if an indoor setting is busy.
“Train travel is low-risk, with the majority of carriages well ventilated by air conditioning systems or by doors and windows.”
Eurostar, however, will ask passengers to continue wearing masks beyond July 19.
British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin and Ryanair, have specified that masks will be required on board their flights.
Manchester United opening up ‘warm spaces’ in Red Cafe to the community this winter
Manchester United are opening up the doors of their Red Cafe to the local community for December, providing “warm spaces” to those set to struggle over the coming months.
As part of the club’s winter campaign, United by Your Side, the Red Cafe will provide a safe space for people to stay warm, eat, drink and chat.
The area will be available to absolutely everyone and completely free of charge every Monday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, starting on 6 December from 5:00-8:00pm.
People can arrive and register via the North Stand reception (Sir Alex Ferguson Stand), before being guided to the Red Cafe and left to get warm, enjoy hot beverages and plenty of snacks, as well as socialise.
Crucially, another objective of the Red Cafe’s United by Your Side scheme is helping combat loneliness, as a big part of the warm spaces are the ‘talking benches’ located on the forecourt at Old Trafford.
Signposted as a welcoming place for people who feel alone or are simply worried, shy or anxious to sit and talk to others, this area is designed for people to look after one another and reach out during a period when we’re all encouraged to be more giving.
As United’s COO Collette Roche detailed in an official statement: “Whether Christmas is part of people’s life or not, the festive period can be a difficult time for many. It’s a time of year that puts extra pressure on people and can affect mental health and wellbeing in lots of different ways.
“Through our United by Your Side campaign, we want people who are struggling to know that they are not alone, particularly in our local community. We want to make Old Trafford a second home by providing winter accessories, company, warmth and food for those who need it.”
In addition, today (Friday 2 December), fans are drumming up extra support for the United Foundation and homeless charity Centrepoint by staging a fundraising sleepout in the Munich Tunnel.
The club is working with the council and several local and national charities like Centrepoint to deliver the initiatives and communicate them to people who need it most.
Eleanor Roaf, Director of Public Health at Trafford Council, said: “This year with the increase in the cost of heating and food, many people are likely to find winter and the festive period challenging.
“I’m delighted that Manchester United are opening their Red Cafe and providing this space with hot snacks and drinks. This helps to how football is at the heart of our borough.”
Manchester Mind are also playing a key role in the campaign. The CEO of the mental health charity’s Mancunian arm, Elizabeth Simpson, said: “We know that many people are struggling at the moment due to the cost of living crisis and that this is impacting their mental health.”
She went on to note these added pressures on top of an already busy and often stressful time of year “can feel overwhelming and isolating”, which is why initiatives like United By Your Side are so important.
The sleepout alone has already raised nearly £15,000 at the time of writing and the lifeline the warm spaces set up in Old Trafford will provide cannot be overstated.
Moreover, while it fills our hearts to hear of local institutions like this doing their bit to help people in the community, it’s heartbreaking to know that warm banks are even required. Sadly, United are by no means the only organisation that felt it was necessary to offer up this kind of support.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, loneliness, rising costs or simply not knowing where to go for help, please send them to Manchester Mind’s cost of living information, their wellbeing hub and be sure to make them aware of warm spaces like those at Red Cafe if they need it.
Well done to the club and the associated charities for setting up such vital resources and a safe haven this December. United by name, united by nature.
*Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 16 and due to United’s EFL Cup fixture against Burnley on Wednesday 21 December, the Red Cafe will open on Thursday 22 December instead.
Featured Image — Manchester United/Dayne Topkin (via Unsplash)
Part of Greater Manchester named as one of the happiest places to live
A new study has named a part of Greater Manchester as one of the happiest places to live in the North West of England.
This year’s Happy at Home study by Rightmove, now in its 11th year, asked over 21,000 people how they feel about their hometowns.
The results showed having a sense of belonging to your local area to be the most important contributor towards happiness, alongside a strong sense of community, and polite and friendly neighbours.
Overall, the coastal town of St Ives in Cornwall was named this year’s happiest place to live in Great Britain by its residents, with Galashiels in the Scottish Borders in second place and the market town of Woodbridge in Suffolk in third.
However, in the regional ranking for the North West Greater Manchester came out on top – with the Trafford market town of Altrincham ranking at number 17 in the whole of the UK and in second place out of 25 regional locations.
Coming in just behind Northwich in Cheshire, it wasn’t the only town in Greater Manchester to make the regional list.
Wth Stockport ranking at number 9, Bury at number 11, followed by Oldham (12), Salford (13) Manchester (14), Rochdale (17), Wigan (23) and Bolton (25), it definitely seems that residents have confirmed what we already know – that Greater Manchester is a great place to live.
You can see the full local ranking of all the regions in the North West below. To see how the rest of the country fared, click here to visit the Rightmove Happy At Home website page.