Poorer hit hardest by coronavirus because people ‘can’t afford to self-isolate’, Burnham warns

Coronavirus outbreaks are happening in the UK’s poorest regions because people there ‘cant afford to self-isolate’, the mayor of Greater Manchester has claimed.

Andy Burnham said people in the north of England especially are struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic and argued it is “not fair for the government to threaten these places with a lockdown”.

The Labour mayor said those who are told to self-isolate by the Government’s Test and Trace system often cannot afford to because of money worries or are fearful of losing their jobs.

He added that the government’s systems for tracking cases are currently failing to do the “basic things that could be done to help those communities manage the spread of this virus”.

Worrying Test and Trace figures

Recently published NHS Test and Trace figures show that the system is reaching only half of the people who have been in contact with somebody who has been infected with coronavirus in the 20 most-affected areas of the country.

“And the question you have to ask is – why is it so low in the places where we need it to be highest?” Mr Burnham told Sky News on Saturday – referring to the report.

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“And I would say, one of the reasons is, people in those places, the poorest communities in the country – they simply cannot afford to self-isolate when they are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace because they won’t be paid.

Several cities in the north of England have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks. (Getty)
Several cities in the north of England have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks. (Getty)

“Or worse they will fear losing their job. And this is the issue that the government has to correct.”

Mr Burnham said the government should considering introducing a “system like jury service”, which compensates people for time off work.

“I can’t see how we’ll get through this winter safely until that flaw is corrected,” he added.

Restrictions for northern towns

On Friday the government announced that people in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and Pendle and Blackburn in Lancashire are to face tighter restrictions because of local outbreaks.

Under the new guidance, nearly half a million people in the affected regions will be unable to socialise with anyone outside their household from midnight on Saturday.

They are also be advised to avoid using public transport beyond essential journeys.

The number of people attending weddings and funerals is being limited to close family members of no more than 20 people.

The Department of Health said Health Secretary Matt Hancock will bring in regulations “to ensure that this self-isolation period is legally enforced” and warned that anyone who does not abide by the rules without a reasonable excuse could be fined.

But leaders in the region have complained the restrictions have been imposed without “detailed guidance” and have caused confusion.

The Labour leader of Pendle Council Mohammed Iqbal told the BBC’s Today programme on Saturday the restrictions, which the council argued against, had been “imposed” to “punish people who have been testing flat out”.

He added: “The Government has announced these tightening restrictions for local people in my area, yet they have not issued any detailed guidance as to how it will operate, who will police it.

“So local people are actually more confused than they were on Thursday evening.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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