Politics

Andy Burnham: R rise shows we were right to fear lockdown was eased too fast


Ever since the Government started to ease the lockdown, I have been calling on them to publish the latest R numbers for the regions.

Why? It’s because there is a real worry across the North West that the relaxation came too soon.

We needed a way of knowing whether that was true and the level of risk people are facing.

Now that the figures have finally been published, it feels like our fears have been confirmed.

With the R number for the North West creeping over 1.0, people here will be feeling anxious.

We will do everything in our power to reassure them. But we will need help from the Government to restore public confidence in the public health message.

It is sadly the case that the Government’s handling of the Dominic Cummings affair weakened the authority of the Government at the worst possible time.


Some people stopped listening but they urgently need to be re-engaged.

We stand ready to help with that but we need Ministers to listen and work with us, given that we know our communities best. Simply talking of putting them under lockdown will not work.

We need to start by empowering people with much more local information, particularly those in the areas where the virus is most prevalent.

If people know the true picture, I am certain they will act accordingly with more caution. The Government needs to work with us to develop specific advice for those communities.


Next the Government needs to allow more flexibility to schools in areas most affected to decide when it’s right to re-open.

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Trying to force them to open to an arbitrary deadline set by Whitehall has not been helpful.

We also need to consider whether it still makes sense to re-open more retail here on 15 June.

Finally, we need a new effort to prioritise the most at-risk areas for the introduction of Test and Trace and provide more funding for local councils to support affected communities and manage the risks.

For too long in this crisis, it has felt like the Government hasn’t been listening to voices in the North.

Unlike London, we weren’t given a seat on COBRA.

We warned that things were moving too quickly and it now looks like we were right.

Boris Johnson and his Government need to have a new coronavirus conversation with us – starting today.





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