LOCKDOWN restrictions in Greater Manchester could be eased within days as cases begin to flatten.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says the ban on mixing with other households could be relaxed this week – everywhere except Oldham.
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Tougher lockdown rules were reintroduced in parts of northern England on July 31 following an upsurge in Covid-19 cases.
Around 4.5 million people in East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester were told not to socialise with others in pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops or places of worship to curb the spread of the virus.
But Andy Burnham believes some restrictions will soon be lifted.
He told the Mirror: “Hopefully, we will begin to see some people getting released.
“If things stay as they are I think it is likely that we would see a change.”
But he warned that “the numbers can change quite dramatically in four, five days” and some areas could face restrictions for some time.
Measures will remain in place, and possibly tighten, in the worst hit areas but will be relaxed where cases have fallen, he added.
The latest figures for Greater Manchester showed Oldham had 108.4 cases per 100,000 people while Rochdale had 46.3.
Manchester had 42.3, Salford 32.8, and Tameside 31.8 – all far higher than the UK-wide average of 17.3.
Mr Burnham said: “Our cases are flattening – with one exception, Oldham – and we are starting to turn the tide in most of our boroughs.
“The hope is, maybe we will have a better time ahead of us.
“I think the blanket approach will start to be undone – certain boroughs where the cases are lower will start to be released.”
Local lockdowns are reviewed weekly, with Wigan predicted to have its rules lifted first as it has “far fewer cases”.
But Mr Burnham believes tighter restrictions in areas where the infection rate is highest would be “profoundly damaging”.
He added: “They have got to consider alternatives to it, putting more resources into communities that have the highest rates. It’s a last resort and we need a more sophisticated approach.”
People living in the hotspot areas cannot meet one another inside homes, private gardens or any other indoor areas.
Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres and indoor play areas were not permitted to reopen at the weekend as they did elsewhere in the country.
Mr Burnham fears the long-term effects of banning families from meeting indoors are “getting bigger and the damage is getting greater”.
He said: “I can hear the desperation in people’s voices when they are talking about parents in care homes, not having seen them.
“It’s doing damage to family life. People feel frustration, anger and fatigue.”
The Labour politician also said people in lower-paid jobs, who are unable to work from home, are more vulnerable after virus outbreaks in several northern warehouses.
He questioned why poorer communities were being hit harder and called on the Government to reimburse firms whose workers have to self-isolate.
“Most of those people were working through lockdown,” he said.
“People on the lowest pay are simply not able to self-isolate because they won’t get any pay if they do.
“Why are these communities struggling to bring levels of the virus down? It is linked to the nature of people’s work and the housing that we have.
“The Government is standing back now, saying lockdown seems to be its only offer when actually these communities need different types of help.”