You will have seen that the Government have announced that all Greater Manchester is to remain in Tier 3.
The progress suppressing COVID-19 infections in Greater Manchester over the last two weeks, and especially here in Tameside, has been very encouraging. Thank you for the sacrifices you are making – it is working. For the first time we have seen real sustained falls in the infection rate. I must be clear however that the rate is still high. At one point in the year we were alarmed when infections hit 30 in 100,000. Now it feels like 92 in 100,000 is low. But that shows just how bad things got.
At the Zoom meeting on Thursday 17 December with Health Ministers held for all North West MPs, the question of GM’s tier status was specifically raised, and the Government said it is down to two things:
1) that despite infections falling significantly, they have fallen from very high to high
2) that in the last few days the fall has eased and it looks like it is starting to plateau.
We all want to know what exactly the Government’s criteria are for exiting Tier 3. Unfortunately, they are not clear about this, and have only said they want there to be significant and sustained falls in infections locally. The Government should clearly be more specific and transparent on this.
I know everyone is fed up. We’ve been under restrictions for longer than most of the of the country and the lack of financial support from Government for the hospitality industry is not fair or right. This year has been very painful for lots of families and businesses and all this is compounded at Christmas.
However, two weeks ago many felt aggrieved that London was in Tier 2 whilst we went into Tier 3. Yet that has actually turned into a disaster for London as Tier 2 is clearly not strong enough to limit the spread of the virus.
The last thing I want to see is for restrictions to ease in Greater Manchester only to be reapplied in two or three weeks time. That is actually the very worst scenario for most businesses, as each time restrictions are lifted they have to stock up and prepare themselves for socially-distanced opening.
At this stage, with the vaccine being rolled out and some light appearing at the end of the tunnel, I think we should be cautious. I also believe that, despite us now being best placed within Greater Manchester, it is right that everyone across GM is asked to abide by the same restrictions. Without that, if say Tameside and Stockport only were put in Tier 2, everyone from miles around would head to us and the risks would be acute.
Please also take care over Christmas. The Government have eased the rules but as ever their communication leaves much to be desired. Please make decisions thoughtfully and try to minimise the risks to yourself and your family.
We’ve come so far and are so close to the end. Thank you to all our key workers, in the NHS but also in schools, supermarkets, councils, post offices and everywhere else. And thank you again to everyone for the sacrifices they are making to control this pandemic.