Andy Burnham paid tribute to Manchester Council’s deputy leader Sue Murphy in his weekly press briefing before Easter.
Councillor Murphy CBE, who served as deputy leader of the Council since 2010, died on April 7 aged 59 after several months of ill health. Her death is said to not be related to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“This has hit us all hard. We’re feeling quite shaken by the news. She leaves behind her a huge legacy of public good,” said Burnham.
Burnham also hoped for quick recoveries for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd, who has been admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary, both having suffered with coronavirus symptoms in the past week.
He also confirmed that a member of the Greater Manchester Police and a care worker from Bury had sadly passed away since last week, while an astonishing 83 care homes across Greater Manchester now house elderly residents with confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Daily hospital admissions have also more than doubled since last week, from 25 to 52.
However, he emphasised that despite these unfortunate developments, Greater Manchester continues to grapple with the pandemic effectively.
“Greater Manchester will support people through this difficult time. We will get through this.”
Hospitals are still operating within capacity, and the Nightingale field hospital is set to open on time this weekend at the GMEX, adding 500 beds to Manchester’s capacity, and easing pressure on intensive care units.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has received 3m pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the national stockpile for health workers, and has itself sourced almost 6m additional pieces independently.
Having called every week for government testing to be stepped up drastically, Burnham noted that the GMCA was making its own progress with testing.
A drive-through test centre has been set up at Manchester Airport, as the mayor recognised the need to establish more testing centres further afield so as to cater more broadly to the ten boroughs.
Despite these positive steps, there are growing concerns in a number of areas concerning increases in criminal activity.
With fewer people venturing out and using the roads, 40% of drivers are now speeding on their journeys, and Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes raised concerns about a possible rise in domestic abuse.
Although it was expected that there would be a precipitous rise in reports of domestic abuse given social isolation measures and a resulting increase in domestic tensions, there has not been a significant increase of reports.
In fact, the number of children admitted to child safeguarding hubs has actually dropped.
The concern is that given victims’ close proximity to their attackers, there may be a reluctance to report them.
“We will make @MCRMetrolink free to our NHS and social care staff – it’s a small gesture of thanks.”
At today’s weekly GM #COVID19 press conference, Andy announced that from this weekend some key workers will be able to travel for free on the city-region’s trams.
— Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) April 8, 2020
She said that police responses to such incidents would be no different under these circumstances, but recognised that with people being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, there may be fewer opportunities to report abuse.
Anyone experiencing such incidents can call 999, and calling 55 will put you through to a call handler. The domestic abuse hotline number is 0808 2000 247.
She said: “If there is an issue at home and tensions are rising, there is a place you can go to get advice.”
FREE TRAM FOR NHS
The police have also seen a recent increase in people breaking the national guidelines. At the weekend, there were 500 calls a day for the police to disperse congregations, including one call to shut down a house party, where the police were initially ignored by the host.
This is especially concerning as we enter the Easter period, when people tend to throw group celebrations. It was emphasised that it remained extremely important to refrain from congregating in person with anyone from outside of your own household.
Building on previous policy announcements, it was noted that Manchester’s rubbish dumps and recycling centres would remain closed, and that as of Saturday, April 11, NHS and social care workers would be allowed to use the city’s Metrolink tram network free of charge.
Burnham also said that work was continuing to provide hotel rooms for the homeless and rough sleeping populations, with 630 rooms now filled. It is hoped that more rooms can be filled.
He ended by voicing his hope that once the pandemic is resolved, its legacy will be felt in a recognition that an alternative way of life is not only possible, but desirable: that being able to do more work from home will cut pollution and congestion; that there will be a push for low-emission vehicles; and that people will continue to take better care of their physical health.
Resources remain available online for those seeking official guidelines for businesses, people hoping to volunteer and do their part to help locally, and the latest official medical advice.
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Main image courtesy of Jeff Smith MP, with thanks.