Cheshire leaders call for tighter lockdown restrictions

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Cheshire leaders are calling for tougher measures to be implemented to tighten the current lockdown restrictions.

Leaders of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington and Halton Councils, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership have written to the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government setting out their views on the current Covid lockdown which they describe as "the minimum necessary to address the alarming acceleration of the virus that we have seen across our communities".

However, they state that the "stay at home" message "is undermined by ambiguity between regulations and guidelines; making public compliance more difficult to secure and creating challenges for our enforcement authorities".

Would you like to see the lockdown retrictions tightened? Share you views via the comment box below.

The letter below was sent to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, on Tuesday, 12th January.

Dear Secretaries of State

We are writing to you jointly to set out the views of partners across Cheshire on the current lockdown arrangements, concerns about the impact on schools and our NHS, and progress in the deployment of testing and vaccines.

We support the need for a lockdown. It is the minimum necessary to address the alarming acceleration of the virus that we have seen across our communities and address the deeply concerning pressures on our hospitals.

However, the regulations have left too many areas of social and economic interaction subject to uncertainty. Last Spring there was widespread public compliance with a simple and effective message. In contrast this time, the clarity of the "stay at home" message is undermined by ambiguity between regulations and guidelines; making public compliance more difficult to secure and creating challenges for our enforcement authorities. For example, regulations enable people to exercise far from home, congregate in beauty-spots and public places, and travel for click-and-collect shopping. The more liberal interpretation of lockdown in the current regulations means that many more people are required to work away from home, increasing the risks that their communities will continue to be disproportionately affected. Travel in private and public transport is more significant than in the previous lockdowns. We also have evidence that mask-wearing is not sufficiently enforceable in indoor public places, or in outdoor areas where people are in close proximity.

We would support additional national measures that tighten these areas further, to be implemented alongside further financial support for businesses and their employees, and the self-employed.

The process for partial closure of schools was chaotic and poorly communicated by government, leaving our school staff, parents and pupils to deal with a terrible conflict between the education of children and the protection of public health. Our teachers and support staff, supported by our council teams, have been nothing short of heroic. But the constantly changing definition of critical workers and vulnerable children, applied inconsistently between schools facing different local circumstances, has again created confusion. We would urge the government to settle on a clear set of guidelines based on medical evidence, which schools can apply flexibly in support of their local circumstances.

We would also oppose a premature lifting of the lockdown. Cheshire experienced a rapid escalation between tiers during the Christmas period, which created real suffering amongst our local business community. Nothing would be more destabilising to business than more uncertainty about the regulations they will face. We support retaining lockdown until we see a sustained period of reduced infection, the immediate pressures on our hospitals have been resolved, and the vaccine has protected those who are at highest risk of hospital admission and serious illness. We should then exit with a clear strategy in place for recovery and renewal, supported by additional investment in our economy and communities.

We welcome the extension of asymptomatic testing under local management, and also the recognition by government that this cannot provide a "freedom pass" to breach the lockdown rules. We will deliver testing locally as part of a wider public health response, with tests made available only to those with unavoidable and repeated contact outside their households; including schools, care homes, critical businesses and front-line public services. We urge government to ensure a sufficient supply of lateral flow devises to meet this need, and to ensure councils have the funding required to deliver the programme effectively and safely. We expect this to remain in place long after the lockdown is eased. Public health programmes will need sustained investment, long after the peak of infection is passed.

Finally, we welcome the progress being made to roll out the vaccine. Councils are playing an important role in support of the local NHS, and we are committed to moving through the priority groups as quickly as possible. More local discretion would enable us to target specific communities, groups and individuals, based on evidence of the local public health benefit. We regret that community-level data is still not available publicly, despite the huge public interest in understanding the rollout of the vaccine locally, and the links to our local outbreak plans. We urge you to learn lessons from the rollout of local track and trace which has been hampered by excessive command-and-control, and the confusion created by the recent letter sent to some over-80s about the regional vaccine sites. For most of our over-80s, attendance at the Manchester city centre site is not a viable or safe option, and we will need a greater focus on more accessible and community-based sites if progress is to be made rapidly.

This letter reflects our commitment to play our part in the next stage of response to this terrible virus. A strong and flexible local response is critical to success, and we urge you to respond quickly to the issues we have raised.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Sam Corcoran - Leader of the Council, Leader of the Labour Group Cheshire East Council

Councillor Craig Browne - Deputy Leader, Leader of the Independent Group Cheshire East Council

Councillor Louise Gittins - Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

Councillor Russ Bowden - Leader of Warrington Borough Council

Clare Hayward MBE DL - Chair Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

David Keane - Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire

Councillor Rob Polhill - Leader of Halton Borough Council

Photo: Councillor Sam Corcoran - Leader of the Council and Councillor Craig Browne - Deputy Leader (taken prior to the Covid pandemic.

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Mark Russell
Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 12:00 pm
Still waiting for an explanation from the deputy leader of Cheshire east to explain why he was seen breaking lockdown rules. The absolute front of this man and his friends is scandalous.
Gary Chaplin
Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 3:18 pm
It would appear the ambiguity is rife within our leaders. Swapping messages with Sam last week, and he was adamant that people should only exercise within their village, town or part of their city. He's obviously wrong, and did (partly) climb down.

We don't need tighter guidelines, we just need our council leaders to understand what are rules, what are guidelines and enforce/encourage those. Any time spent outside will see groups of people congregated and a mix of obviously multiple households. Personal responsibility is the key here.

For goodness sake, don't give these typically ineffective people any more power.
Christopher Walker
Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 4:03 pm
There is still no proper evidence that lockdowns are the answer to fighting this dreadful disease. Seems to me that the experts themselves (I am not one), are quite split on the benefits versus dis-benefits. The impacts to our society and people with non Covid related issues impacted by a stated lack of medical resources for cancer, Heart disease etc mean the medicine of lockdown is now worse than the cure. What about the kids education, not to mention trashing our economy which needs to prosper in order to fund the NHS?

Personally, I think the social distancing, washing hands etc and not flouting the rules is eminently sensible. I suggest the lockdowns are becoming an ineffective response and it is now a populist bandwagon leaders seem to have jumped on around the globe.

Goodness knows how many deaths we face downstream with undetected serious illnesses like cancer, Heart attacks etc. History will judge this lack of leadership badly.
I am very keen on vaccination and I really hope it turns the tide.
I am a Covid survivor by the way.

I am aware this is off message for many, but is my considered opinion which many people share but too scared to express. I do respect others opinions.

It feels like this disease does seem to chart its own course and immunity is the only chance we have whether by catching it or from a jab.
Phil Lenoir
Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 7:44 pm
Disgraceful attempt at finger-pointing at the general public for not abiding to regulations on a par with last March. Surveys have suggested that compliance is at a very high level notwithstanding the devastating effects on peoples lives and businesses. And for the employed to be actually out earning a living is blatantly scoffed at.
There is no empirical evidence that lockdowns are of any effect(Recent survey from Canada being the latest corroboration) and no reference is made to the massive negative impacts associated with societal shutdown.
Mask wearing is not being flouted and the suggestion that outdoor wearing is even required is contrary to any Governmental diktat both now and previous.
The council should be thanking its community and pressing the Government for restrictions to be lifted as soon as the NHS is able to cope with cases and all top 4 vulnerable groups have been vaccinated. To push now for further tightening when cases in both Cheshire East and West are beginning to flatten is a kick in the teeth for the tax payer - both our local MP(Esther McVey) and central Govt are not even suggesting it.
Stop treating the public like deplorables and leave Covid regulations to central Govt who have the (supposed) experts at hand and can be relied on to make enough bad decisions of their own.
Vic Barlow
Wednesday 13th January 2021 at 9:13 pm
Looks like the current Lockdown is doing the job
From BBC website Jan 13

Cheshire East
Find out more about the restrictions in your area

406 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week 3 Jan-9 Jan. The average area in England had 526*.
1,558
cases in the latest week 3 Jan-9 Jan
-217
compared with the previous week
Kathryn Blackburn
Thursday 14th January 2021 at 8:57 am
Thank you Esther McVey for voting against the lockdowns
This government should be ashamed.
Economy trashed
PCR and Lateral Flow tests not fit for purpose.
Mental health and other fatal diseases left untreated
Faked modelling, massaged death figures and death certificates
Shelter the at risk elderly let the rest of us take common sense precautions and let us begin to take back our lives.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 14th January 2021 at 9:03 am
FOI request. As it is highly unlikely that the seven named as authors of the letter could have constructed it even as a collaborative effort was the real author(s) already on the public payroll or were yet further taxpayers funds used to pay a private enterprise.
This is further evidence that, when some normality is resumed a root and branch overhaul of central and local government, OURNHS, the education system and the police "service" must be ruthlessly undertaken with all those who have attended "Common Purpose" courses banned from any publicly funded employment or public office. You people are elected or appointed to GOVERN not to rule and are handsomely rewarded out of our pockets. Try to remember that!!
For those of you still believing the "cases" of "covid" please access and read the Corman Drosten Review and the conclusions about the ludicrous 45 cycle RT-PCR testing.
John Gosling
Thursday 14th January 2021 at 9:43 am
I am really disappointed with the Council’s letter. I do not underestimate the pressure on the NHS or the tragedy of lives lost to coronavirus, but lockdown is causing a lot of damage to a large number of people’s lives (quite apart from its massive financial costs). The published official figures (http://www.coronavirus.data.gov.uk) show that the numbers of people testing positive in Cheshire East in the week to 13 January actually fell by 7% from the previous week, suggesting that the peak of infections may have passed (rather at odds with the Council’s reference in its letter to the “alarming acceleration of the virus”). I would like to see the Council, rather than begging the government to impose ever tighter restrictions and keep us closed down, waking up to the widespread damage being caused by lockdown, delivering a message of optimism and getting on with planning for the lifting of restrictions as soon possible.
Julian Barlow
Thursday 14th January 2021 at 9:54 am
These tighter lockdown restrictions come with their own consequences. More businesses are unable to trade creating bankruptcies, unemployment and job shortages. With this in mind and given the fervour with which CEC have sought ever tighter restrictions, it would be wholly inappropriate to increase council tax this year.

Of course, in an effort to save the NHS we're seeing a huge increase in mental and other serous health issues.

The NHS exists because we work and pay taxes. If much of the nation is unemployed and many of us are left with serious health issues, how will we have saved the NHS?
Jon Armstrong
Thursday 14th January 2021 at 9:50 pm
I thought I was reading http://www.wilmslow.co.uk but it seems I've accidently strayed onto QAnon.
Vince Chadwick
Friday 15th January 2021 at 9:14 am
Indeed Jon; tinfoil hats abound. Quite a few on here very willing to throw the over 60s under a bus, too. As is our 'caring' MP (not!), but I'd expect nothing less from her.

https://www.cheshire-live.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/cheshire-mp-voted-against-lockdown-19577075
Mark Goldsmith
Friday 15th January 2021 at 4:10 pm
Yesterday, the 3 millionth person was vaccinated in the UK. However, only three months ago a regular complainer on here said with complete certainty “How are we going to get a vaccine inside a year, when they have never got a vaccine for a common cold in over 100 years!” and then demanded we attempted herd immunity instead of lockdowns.

Obviously, this comment has not aged very well but it does highlight the problem. With a lack of real evidence or “proof” about this new virus, peoples opinions fill the void. So, all governments are walking a narrow tightrope of trying to suppress infection rates while minimising damage to the economy and all based on the best guess opinions of experts.

Therefore, letters like this from the council leaders are well intentioned but just add to the noise of opinion and confusion. Instead, I think we should let our real experts guide us. They are doing the best of an impossible job, so let them get on with it and stop undermining them by questioning every decision they make. If council leaders have doubts, then they should raise them in private with the government and not in open letters like this.

Some of the other points our armchair experts on wilmslow.co.uk have regularly made can also now be reviewed with hindsight:

- Suicide rates have not “increased dramatically”. They have hardy risen at all.
https://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=51861

- UK excess deaths in 2020 were the highest since WWII. The total excess also closely
corresponds with the deaths prescribed to Covid-19. This shows Coronavirus deaths
are being correctly diagnosed and are not coincidental "within 28 days" of a virus test.

- The government is funding Covid-19 activity with £400 billion of borrowing at a 10 year
fixed rate of 0.32%. This debt will cost £1.28bn a year to service from the
governments £850bn a year spending. Therefore, it is hardly “bankrupting future
generations” or "ruining their lives".

- Average hospital treatment for Covid-19 is 8 days. Average knee replacement patients
only get 4 days. So Covid-19 patients are very sick and don’t “just have the flu”.

- Brazil tried Covid-19 herd immunity in Manaus, a city of 2.2 million people. Based on
their experience, the UK would have over 1 million deaths and a paralysed NHS. Our
hospitals are struggling badly with a 5% UK infection rate but it is 75% in “herd
immune” Manaus. How this massive increase of Covid-19 cases would help the NHS
treat more cancer patients is completely unfathomable to me.

- Despite this, death rates in Manaus are now rapidly rising again as the strain has
mutated. Therefore, they may not have herd immunity after all.

- On 7th January the daily death rate from Covid-19 was 1,325 people. Total UK road
traffic deaths for the whole of 2019 was 1,752 people. We don't say "sorry, but people
have to die of something" and stop paying for road safety though.

- Sweden didn't lock down but suffered far more deaths and damage to its economy
than other Scandinavian countries that did lockdown. Fear alone stopped the Swedes
from going out and their hospitality industry has also been decimated. The Swedish
Prime Minister has said "Of course the fact that so many have died can't be
considered as anything other than a failure".

- UK unemployment in February 2020 before lockdown was 3.5%. It is now 4.9%. It was
12.8% in the 1980’s, but we still managed to fund the NHS during that decade.

- The rural economy bounced back very quickly after the Foot & Mouth disease closed it
down in 2001. The UK economy should do likewise. Probably sometime in 2021.

- Over half the worlds population experienced some form of lockdown in 2020. Even in
the year 1666, the villagers of Eyam knew lockdown stopped the spread of disease.
Black death claimed 75% of their lives but they still did it to save others. We are just
being told to stay at home to save others, so is it really too much to ask?

Do people want 1 million unnecessary UK deaths and very slim chance of avoiding a 1.4% increase in unemployment by stopping lockdowns?

I doubt it.

Therefore, we need some form of lockdown. So please just follow the guidelines, keep doing the right thing and get the vaccine whenever it is offered to you. That way we will all come out of this as fast and as best as we can.

Cllr Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Wilmslow West & Chorley
Alan Brough
Friday 15th January 2021 at 7:46 pm
@Mark Goldsmith,

I completely agree - but talking common sense and providing evidence-based information will be your undoing as a local politician. There’s just no call for it.
Tony Haluradivth
Friday 15th January 2021 at 11:54 pm
3 people (the usual suspects) agreeing with this appalling letter and overreach of public power. The PCC is a hopeless man and should have been booted out by now as he has exceeded the alotted time at his post

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