Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram – mayors of Manchester and Liverpool respectively – have urged the government to allow regional councils to decide when it is right to open schools to a wider number of pupils, going forward. The two mayors also called on the Prime Minister to provide confirmation that retail outlets should still be allowed to widely reopen on June 15 as part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown measures.
It comes after researchers from Public Health England and Cambridge University last week warned that the R number in the North West has crept above 1.
The R number is what the government is keeping a close watch on around the country. It represents the number of people that will be infected by each person that is confirmed positive for the virus.
Thus, an R number above 1 means that more and more people will be infected over time.
The North West is currently at 1.01 – higher than anywhere else in England and an increase of 0.73 a few weeks ago, according to the Manchester Evening News (MEN).
The two mayors said in a joint statement: “We ask everyone to make a renewed commitment to follow the official guidance and to stay home as much as possible,” I News reports.
“In fact, we would go further and advise people to err on the side of caution and to use the new freedoms carefully and safely.”
The rise has fuelled concerns among officials that planning for the Covid-19 response in England is too centralised, and that local councils are not getting enough information from Westminster.
This morning, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham held a press conference to address the concerns raised by the R number in the North West.
READ MORE: Americans are drinking BLEACH to prevent COVID-19 in shock new data
I News reports that the number of reported hospital admissions for Covid-19 in Greater Manchester is currently higher than it’s been since late April.
On Sunday, both Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram wrote to the Prime Minister calling for “extra reassurance” for the North West given the rise in transmission rate.
The two mayors wrote: “Last month, you said that reports of the R going up again in countries where relaxations have been introduced was: ‘a very clear warning to us not to proceed too fast or too recklessly.’
“We agree with that but are disappointed that there has so far been no prior consultation or notice of the relaxations to lockdown that have so far been announced.”
The two mayors also said that they are making a commitment to provide more information locally on a weekly basis – the idea of a local “heat map” has been suggested – and called for Public Health England to support this.
They also called on the government to change its guidance so that “express permission” is granted to councils “to decide when it is right to re-open schools to a wider number of students, particularly with regard to more localised information”.
They added: “We would also ask the Government to seek confirmation for SAGE that it is safe to proceed with the much wider reopening of retail outlets on the 15th of June in the North West.