Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has poured cold water over the Government plans to use “local lockdowns” to fight flare-ups of coronavirus.
Mr Burnham said the strategy could be a “recipe for chaos” and Boris Johnson’s Government needs to “regain a grip” on the crisis and focus instead on strengthening a tracking and tracing system.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, if cases of Covid-19 spike in individual areas, restrictions will be tightened as part of the future NHS, test, track and trace system, which is set to expand on June 1.
This could lead to local schools, businesses or workplaces being closed in areas with high prevalence of infection, it said.
Mr Burnham, speaking at a weekly briefing to reporters, said: “Again there has been minimal consultation with mayors, combined authorities, local authorities, about this policy.
“We are in the dark as to this policy even though it will have major impact on us and I’m afraid it follows a pattern on PPE, testing and now this.
“And it raises very real challenges with regard to the enforceability of any local lockdown and indeed the fairness of having one community locked down or even partially locked down, next door to another which is not and the tensions that may arise from a situation like that.
“We hear talk today from ministers about parts of towns locked down.
“That seems to me to be a very challenging concept.
“This is a policy that causes me real concern and I struggle to understand how it can be effectively enforced.
“For me it feels fraught with difficulties.
“I would much have preferred there to be strong, testing, tracking, isolating arrangement in place before these policies were even put out there.
“If we rush into a localised lockdown policy then I think it’s a recipe for chaos to be honest.”
Mr Burnham said local lockdowns would represent a failure to properly track and trace people with the virus and the Government should focus instead in building public confidence in tracking and tracing.
He also said the row over Dominic Cummings had undermined and weakened the Government’s public health message and focus.
He added: “If we carry on in a world of Westminster politicking then I think we are going to get ourselves into the wrong position.
“Action needs to be taken to restore public trust and a line needs to be drawn.”
Latest figures for Greater Manchester showed a generally improving picture with 349 new cases of coronavirus with the regional R number remaining at 0.73 for the North West.
A total of 53 deaths were reported in the last week, bringing the total to 1,755 overall in Greater Manchester.
Numbers in intensive care in hospital was 65, down from 77 last week and 591 in hospital, down from 673 last week.
The position on care homes was also gradually improving, with 28% of care homes currently having a resident with Covid, down from 31% last week though new hospital admissions with the virus had increased slightly to 25 in the last seven days.