Stricter coronavirus restrictions imposed on some areas of northern England may be lifted this week, it has been claimed.
A fresh clampdown affecting about 4.5million people in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire was introduced two weeks ago as officials responded to localised Covid-19 spikes.
But Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, now believes that rules limiting people from mixing with other households in homes or gardens will be relaxed.
He told the Mirror : “Hopefully, we will begin to see some people getting released.
“If things stay as they are I think it is likely that we would see a change.”
Mr Burnham said restrictions would stay in place – and could even be tightened – in the worst-hit areas, but they could be eased in areas where the infection rate has dropped.
Infection rates for Greater Manchester, published on Saturday, showed Oldham had 108.4 cases per 100,000 people, Rochdale 46.3, Manchester 42.3, Salford 32.8 and Tameside 31.8.
The UK-wide average case rate is 17.3 per 100,000.
Speaking to the Mirror, Mr Burnham said: “Our cases are flattening – with one exception, Oldham – and we are starting to turn the tide in most of our boroughs. The hope is, maybe we will have a better time ahead of us.”
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The affected areas have also denied the latest lockdown relaxations that were announced last week for the rest of England, including having up to 30 guests at wedding receptions, the restart of close-contact services such as eyebrow waxing, and the reopening of bowling alleys, ice rinks and casinos.
Asked if the change could come this week, the Manchester mayor said: “Possibly. The numbers can change quite dramatically in four, five days.”
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But Mr Burnham admitted that other parts of the region might be stuck with restrictions for much longer.
He warned: “It’s a really tough time for everybody. It’s probably not going to get any easier any time soon. We have had high numbers of cases. It’s not just isolated hotspots.”
He feared a full lockdown could be reimposed on areas whether the infection rate is highest, adding: “I think that would be profoundly damaging."
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