‘It is not about the money’, says council boss in lockdown row

The leader of Manchester City Council has said the row with government over Tier 3 restrictions is not just about the money.

Sir Richard Leese said most people who test positive for the virus “are not getting particularly ill” but the problem was too many now getting ill and increasing hospital admissions and numbers in intensive care.

He said the Government’s “blanket business closure policy” is questionable and instead suggested a shielding programme for those most at risk would work better.

Sir Richard, along with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and nine other borough council leaders in the region are currently in a stand-off with Government.

The Government is trying to cut social interaction by closing pubs and other businesses while keeping schools and the economy open.

Greater Manchester, and other regions, have cast doubt on government strategy while also demanding more cash to help locked down local economies.

In a blog post Sir Richard said both sides agree on reducing the number of cases leading to hospital admission and that the current situation needs action.

But he claimed the Government’s approach to bringing down the number of coronavirus cases is not based on the evidence or supported by the science.

“The dispute is often represented as being simply about money,” he said.

Sir Richard claimed the Government wants to close bars and pubs without any evidence they are a major cause of virus transmission and without any evidence that closing them would be effective.

He added: “However, more important than money are the actions to address the problem.

“Most people who test positive for the virus are not getting particularly ill.

“They are not the problem.

“Too many are now getting ill and the number of hospital cases is going up, as is the number of people with Covid in intensive care.

“That’s the problem.”

The NHS Nightingale North West hospital in Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA)
The NHS Nightingale North West hospital in Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA)

Sir Richard said, with improved treatment now, the “good news” is the death rate for infections will not be “anything like” April or May.

But he said the “bad news” is, if cases continue to rise, hospitals will have to again start cancelling other patients’ treatments.

He said medics now know the most at risk of hospital admissions: older people and people with existing underlying conditions, diabetes, obesity, high-blood pressure, other respiratory illnesses.

He added: “If this is the evidence, wouldn’t it be much better to have an effective shielding programme for those most at risk, rather than have a blanket business closure policy of dubious efficacy.

“Sadly, Government, having forced through badly thought regulations, seem unwilling to think again.”