Burnham wants tougher stay at home policy, self-employed sick pay assurances and rough sleeper funding

Date published: 23 March 2020

Andy Burnham wants the government to enforce a country-wide coronavirus lockdown where people can only leave the house for essential supplies.

The mayor of Greater Manchester has called on prime minister Boris Johnson to announce today a stronger ‘stay at home’ policy to try and limit the spread of the disease.

It comes after NHS workers urged people to stay indoors and self-isolate if they show symptoms as the number of COVID-19 cases – and deaths – continues to rise. 

Mr Burnham also wants a better deal to protect the income of self-employed workers and a commitment to house all those sleeping rough with immediate effect.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain on ITV, the former health secretary said: “We are entering a new phase of this outbreak and the Government urgently needs to move to a new policy. 

“We have had too many mixed and confusing messages. Absolute clarity is now needed.

“In today’s press briefing, the Government needs to announce a new stay at home policy, backing up the powerful calls from NHS staff over the weekend. 

“This policy would allow only a very limited number of exceptions, for instance to collect shopping, and must come with clear arrangements for enforcement.”

Last week chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would cover 80% of workers’ wages to stop them being sacked by their companies.

No such commitment has been offered to those who are self-employed, though communities secretary Robert Jenrick said this could change despite being ‘operationally difficult’

But Mr Burnham urges changes to the policy which only allows self-employed workers to receive statutory sick pay.

“You also can’t build a sense of national unity if some are having their wages covered but five million self-employed people are being told to live on statutory sick pay,” he said.

“The health secretary [Matt Hancock] has said that he couldn’t live on it and nor should we expect others whose earnings have plummeted. This also needs to be corrected today.”

Over the weekend Mr Burnham also called on the government to provide local authorities with more money to house rough sleepers – and this was reiterated during his TV appearance.

The mayor said: “No person should be forced to sleep on our streets, and there should be an immediate package announced to allow us to get people into safe and secure accommodation.

“I think that these are policies that can unite people.  We need to build a sense that everyone is in this together and everyone is being looked after.”

Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter

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