Coronavirus: Talks on Greater Manchester test and trace plan 'positive' - mayor

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Pubs and restaurants in Bolton have been told to shut their doors to customers in the latest restrictions

"Positive discussions" have taken place on plans for Greater Manchester to take control of its own test and trace system, mayor Andy Burnham has said.

It would make the region the first in the country responsible for contact testing, tracing and isolating people who test positive for Covid-19.

It follows a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in all ten boroughs except Trafford.

The mayor is sending his proposals to the government later on Wednesday.

A "bottom-up approach where we're working face-to-face with people in communities" will get "much more buy-in from the public", Mr Burnham said.

Image source, GMCA

Mr Burnham has long said that failings in the national system have been "hampering" efforts to bring the region's spikes under control.

Meanwhile in Bolton, where tough restrictions have been implemented including the closure of pubs, the council's chief executive has called for a local extension to the furlough scheme.

Tony Oakman said there had been a "staggering increase" in infections, and the effect the new measures would have on people's livelihoods was a "serious concern".

He said the council was "working hard" with the government to support the hospitality industry.

"We have asked the furlough scheme is reintroduced in Bolton for businesses that have been hit hard and we await the outcome."

Image caption,
Officials have been out in Bolton which has seen the highest number of Covid cases in the country

Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West and Atherton, said he had also asked for support for businesses from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The furlough scheme which is due to end on 31 October now requires firms to make a contribution to workers' wages as well.

A spokesman for HM Treasury said the government has put in place grants worth up to £1,500 every three weeks for English firms forced to close in local lockdowns.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Parts of Greater Manchester have some of the highest infection rates in the country

In his weekly press conference, Mr Burnham said: "Greater Manchester has been in positive discussions in recent days with the Health Secretary and the head of NHS test and trace about the proposal for a locally-controlled test, trace and isolate system".

He said he had "worked up a proposal with support from the World Health Organisation's special envoy" for a scheme that would "place responsibility and accountability for that system here".

Mr Burnham also said a more localised shielding scheme will be needed for the winter and would involve a smaller group of people than during the national lockdown.

The mayor said the government's announcements, and how they are being made, were "adding to the public's confusion and anxiety".

In response, he called for an urgent reinstatement of the national daily briefings but this time led by "experts, scientists, medics" and not politicians.

Mr Burnham said this is the "most serious phase" and urged everyone in the region to "think about the lives involved".

"If we don't all of us observe the rules closely we are going to see the numbers entering hospital increasing [alongside] the number in care homes becoming infected", he added.

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