Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, today endorsed a joint Greater Manchester statement along with the region's other leaders about Government changes to the rules on gatherings.
He said: "I back the Greater Manchester statement about the new health protection measures brought in to help stop the spread of Covid-19. The evidence on case numbers shows that there is a clear need for modest measures now if we are to avert the risk of a Leicester-style lockdown.
"But while we would encourage people to familiarise themselves with and follow the restrictions there is still an urgent need for the Government to provide further clarification and justification around some of them - especially relating to the restaurant industry - and greater support for those affected."
The full Greater Manchester statement is:
As Leaders of Greater Manchester, we met this morning to discuss the Government’s announcement on changes to the rules on gatherings which came into force at midnight.
We have been regularly monitoring the rate of infection across Greater Manchester. This week, things changed significantly with an increase in those testing positive for Covid-19 in nine out of the ten boroughs. We agree with the Government that this provides a clear evidential basis for modest restrictions to be introduced to get the rate of infection down and down faster.
However, the Mayor and all of the Leaders have expressed concerns about the way the Government handled the communications about this change which has caused confusion and distress for our residents. We would strongly recommend that, where any future announcements of this nature are to be made, full supporting details should be available to the public at the moment any public or media statement is made.
While we support the new measures, we believe that further clarity is needed from the Government in a number of important areas.
· OUTDOOR AREAS IN BUSINESSES: hospitality businesses need clarity on their ability to continue to operate if they have outdoor areas.
· GATHERINGS IN PUBLIC PLACES: how many people can gather in an outdoor space in Greater Manchester – is it 30 or is it 6?
There are also areas where we make further calls on the Government.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that the shielding policy will be suspended from tomorrow and Government support ended. We believe this will cause considerable uncertainty and risks sending mixed messages to those shielding in Greater Manchester. We therefore call on the Government to extend the shielding arrangements in the areas that are subject to intervention until these restrictions are lifted. Our councils will need additional financial support to help us deliver that additional support.
We believe that this announcement will cause further difficulties for restaurants. Given the adaptations restaurants have made at great expense there is a case for the new arrangements not applying to them. However, if the Government will not allow different households to meet in socially-distanced arrangements in restaurants, then further support will be needed for hospitality businesses that have recently re-opened.
We were originally informed that the restrictions would apply to homes and not gardens. We don’t understand the reasons for the inclusion of gardens and are not convinced that this is a proportionate measure.
We therefore call on the Government provide further evidence or amend the regulations.
Finally, we also call for further improvements to the Track and Trace system, including:
The quicker escalation of cases to local areas where people can’t be contacted;
The inclusion of workplace data to enable identification of potential workplace hotspots;
Financial support for those who are asked to self-isolate for 14 days but who will not be paid by their employer if they do so or fear losing their job. We need a new arrangement, agreed with employers, where all employees are able to immediately follow the request to self-isolate with full pay covered.