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The meaning and content of local lockdown in Greater Manchester

The government and Cabinet have been touting the idea for a month, even discussing locking down entire cities, but local leaders say they don't know the pros and cons of it or how it will work.

On Monday, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the government was returning to the UK in the next step of the pandemic response to an increasingly widespread weigh-in. Local lockdown will be implemented in the coming months to combat any spike in the virus, he said, pointing to a broad legal arrangement that would be used to enforce such moves.

The new National Joint Biosecurity Centre, recently set up to monitor pandemic data, would advise Chief Medical Officers, ministers and local authorities on when this would be necessary. Still, no clear picture of a local lockdown can be seen, despite the statements being uttered by ministers for weeks. There are more questions than answers. For example, who decides when to bring a local lockdown to cover what? What would be the trigger? What did it entail? So, who enforces? And what is the next step?

The content of this definition is not very clear. While local public health officials here really know how to handle a local outbreak, they also know they are dealing with TB or measles in a school or hospital, for example, infection control, contact monitoring and isolation of those involved. No one knows exactly what ministers mean when talking about a’ local lockdown’.

Last week Robert Jenrick, the community’s secretary, spoke precisely of the targeted measures that public health agencies are accustomed to. However, it also briefed national newspapers on the closure of all residential sites or part of the zones. On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will announce whether a lockdown will be imposed on cities such as Manchester.

“We certainly have the capability and we will certainly target certain settings or certain areas or geographical areas, yes, certainly,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr, with words that have caused eyebrows to crack among officials here.

One senior parliamentary figure notes that national civil servants have been privately handling the lockdown of all cities for some time. “Implementing lockdown on a city, putting a fence around it is ridiculous. Crap.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham used the Covid press conference to highlight concerns about the idea for two consecutive weeks. Initially describing it as a ‘recipe for chaos’ last week, he stressed on Wednesday that it was not just his position but also parliamentary leaders, whom he said were ‘sceptical’ about a policy fraught with difficulties here.

” The government has said that this does not have to be linked to a single building or institution, but it can be imposed over a wider geographical area,” he said.

He said: “it is not clear who will make this decision or how it will be implemented and we think there are major challenges to that.” Pushing how he thought it could potentially work in practical terms, he said, it was difficult to respond to that.

It was unclear how the National Joint Biosecurity Centre would identify the areas where the biggest problems occurred, or whether councils would take the final decision or deliver it as a ‘higher-level instruction’.

In Greater Manchester, they prefer to use follow-up and follow-up to identify people who catch and potentially spread the virus, while adapting their message if cases increase in certain areas.

One official says town halls could then close entertainment centers, for example, or cancel public events. Another suggests that in the event of a local outbreak, they could close playgrounds or schools where it is difficult to distance children socially, but parks remain open.

Councils prefer to focus on using the contact monitoring system to identify a specific group of people who need to stay inside, while another official agrees, providing information to people so they can make their own decisions. ” We prefer to focus more on a street or a wider area than on a lockdown, ” they say, noting that the idea of lockdown a Prestwich or Stratford is particularly fraught with practical difficulties.

However, public rhetoric from ministers suggests the wider local lockdown is still being considered. The National Working Group is trying to draw up a policy that was previously announced on the national airwaves some time ago.

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