Covid: Greater Manchester and Lancashire to get extra helpon June 8, 2021 at 1:44 pm

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The measures include military support and in-school testing in areas hardest hit by the Delta variant.

Manchester city centre

image copyrightPA Media

Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire will receive extra help to tackle a rise in the Delta variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a “strengthened package of support” would be provided to boost Covid vaccinations and testing.

It will include military support and supervised in-school testing in the areas hardest hit.

People have also been advised to minimise travel in and out of the area and avoid meeting indoors.

As part of the government guidance, residents are also being encouraged to get tested twice a week and continue to work from home if possible.

Schools can also reintroduce face coverings in communal areas if advised to do so by directors of public health.

Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire have been identified as places where the so-called Indian variant, now named the Delta variant by the World Health Organization, is spreading the fastest.

Mr Hancock said the package was based on “what’s working in Bolton” which saw its infection rates drop after being offered enhanced support.

“We know that this approach can work, we’ve seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases,” he said.

“This is the next stage of tackling the pandemic in Manchester and in Lancashire, and of course it’s vital that people in these areas – as everywhere else – come forward and get the jab as soon as they’re eligible because that is our way out of this pandemic together.”

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Analysis box by Nick Triggle, health correspondent

The tactics deployed in Bolton over the past month is now being seen as the template for how to curb the Delta variant.

When infection rates took off in early May the area was flooded with testing, while there was a big push on getting people to come forward for vaccination – the numbers receiving their first jab more than trebled in the space of a few weeks.

The result has seen a drop in infection rates – they are down by more than a quarter in the past 10 days – without the need to impose extra restrictions.

With other parts of Greater Manchester seeing big rises, the hope now is that the tactics will work on a wider footprint.

But these tactics have their limitations. At the moment the rise in cases in England is largely being drive by what is happening in the North West – more than 40% of all cases over the past week were in this region.

If other parts of the country start to see more significant rises, the approach becomes more difficult to pull off as resources become more stretched.

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The new support and advice has been issued to all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester as well as places within the Lancashire County Council area.

Those include Burnley, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre.

Latest government figures showed that 17 of the top 20 areas with the highest infection rates in England in the week leading up to 3 June were in Greater Manchester or Lancashire.

Blackburn with Darwen had the highest rate with 546.4 cases per 100,000 people, while in second-placed Bolton and third-placed Rossendale the rates dropped to 319.6 cases and 288.2 cases respectively over the same period.

The other areas in the top 10 – Hyndburn, Burnley, Ribble Valley and South Ribble in Lancashire and the Greater Manchester boroughs of Salford, Manchester and Bury – all also saw rates rise.

Woman wearing a mask in Manchester

image copyrightReuters

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire County Council, said Covid cases were “continuing to rise at a worrying pace”.

He said the council had been pushing to extend the surge testing and vaccinations, which was already being rolled out in Burnley.

“The government has listened to our calls and has now agreed to provide Lancashire with enhanced support, which gives us more flexibility to fight this new wave of infections,” he added.

Denise Park, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum’s Recovery Co-ordination Group, urged the public to “take advantage of this extra support so we can turn the tide against this latest wave of infections”.

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