PM’s plan for ‘return to normality’ not realistic, says Andy Burnham
Date published: 23 July 2020
Boris Johnson must be more realistic about plans for a ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas, the mayor for Greater Manchester has said.
Andy Burnham said the prime minister first needed to provide more resources to local government to ‘shore up defences’ against coronavirus ahead of a winter presenting ‘massive challenges’.
The new timetable set out by the government for easing lockdown restrictions from 1 August includes giving businesses more discretion to bring staff back into the workplaces.
It will also allow for the reopening of beauty salons, theatres for live performances and wedding receptions for up to 30 people.
Mr Johnson also committed to increasing testing capacity, setting a new target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.
But Mr Burnham said local government needs more resources to help councils employ contact tracers, and to support workers in low-income jobs to self-isolate.
When asked at a press conference on Wednesday (22 July) if normality could resume by the end of the year, Mr Burnham said: “It would be nice, but I don’t think you can bank on that.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to suggest that things go ahead of what the reality might be.
“If you fill these gaps in our defences, there is a chance we might be able to build some confidence and return to a degree of normality but you can’t wish that if you’re not also prepared to put in the measures that make it possible.”
One resource which the government has made available to councils is access to ‘patient identifiable data’ showing who exactly has Covid-19 in an authority area.
This comes after considerable lobbying of ministers by Mr Burnham and other local leaders, with the mayor saying it had ‘taken ages’ to fill that gap in knowledge.
Concerns have also been raised about the coming winter, which the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has already warned will be a ‘very complex time’.
Mr Burnham said he was in talks with public health directors across Greater Manchester to make sure they can maximize take-up of the winter flu vaccine.
He added: “The winter presents massive challenges to the NHS and councils; I think it isn’t going to feel like normality to them.
“The more we’re realistic about that we’d be in a better place to face what’s coming.”
Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter
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