Major incident declared in Greater Manchester over coronavirus rise

A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester amid a rise in coronavirus infection rates.

Meetings of senior figures from the police, local authorities and other agencies to discuss the city’s spike in COVID-19 cases took place over the weekend, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Major incidents are often declared after a terror attack or major flood and mean a region can access extra national resources if necessary.

Oldham in Greater Manchester has seen the area’s biggest rise in cases of coronavirus

If the police need extra help in enforcement, the MEN reports, it is understood the army could be drafted in to support them.

Leader of Manchester City Council Richard Leese said: “People should not be alarmed that a major incident has been declared. This is standard practice for complex situations which require a multi-agency response.

“Although the council and partner organisations have been working closely to tackle the impacts of the pandemic since early this year, declaring a major incident means we can ramp this up further.

“It allows the establishment of a central command structure to oversee the response and enables agencies involved to draw on extra resources.”

Coronavirus cases in Manchester and Tameside have more than doubled in seven days, while Oldham’s remain the highest and the fastest-growing in the area, according to the MEN.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that the coronavirus lockdown in parts of northern England – Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire – would be tightened because of an increasing rate of transmission.

As of Friday, people from different households in those areas were not allowed to meet each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in cases.

People shopping in Oldham, where there has been a rise in infections

The new rules also banned members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but those businesses are permitted to remain open.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Combined Authority said the measures announced on Thursday had not changed and that the declaration of a major incident was “no more than a boost to our capabilities”.

“It is absolutely appropriate for us to maximise our resources in the drive to reverse the spike in infection which we have witnessed in the last seven to 10 days,” he said.

“The more we stick to the new guidelines and drive the R rate down, the quicker they will be removed.”

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Writing in the Sunday Mirror before the announcement, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said people in the area “on the whole” had been brilliant at adhering to the new rules and rejected “efforts to blame some for breaking lockdown rules”.

The comments follow a claim made without evidence by Tory MP Craig Whittaker, whose West Yorkshire seat of Calder Valley was one of the areas affected by the fresh lockdown measures, that it was the “BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities that are not taking this seriously enough”.

He was widely condemned for the comments.