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Cheshire councils criticise Governments lockdown strategy in damning letter – Cheshire Live

https://www.cheshire-live.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/cheshire-councils-criticise-governments-lockdown-19614796

The Government has been criticised for the way in which the latest lockdown has been handled in a damning letter sent by Cheshire council leaders.

The letter, addressed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, sets out the views on current lockdown arrangements, concerns over schools and the NHS and progress on the coronavirus vaccines.

While support for the need of the latest lockdown has been shown, many regulations have been criticised by Cheshire council leaders and Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

In particular the “stay at home” message for this current lockdown has been slammed as ambiguous.

The letter reads: “Last Spring there was widespread public compliance with a simple and effective message.

“In contrast this time, the clarity of the “stay at home” message is undermined by ambiguity between regulations and guidelines; making public compliance more difficult to secure, and creating challenges for our enforcement authorities.”

The leaders and police point out that regulations around outdoor exercise have been confusing for residents.

They state: “For example, regulations enable people to exercise far from home, congregate in beauty-spots and public places, and travel for click-and-collect shopping.

“The more liberal interpretation of lockdown in the current regulations means that many more people are required to work away from home, increasing the risks that their communities will continue to be disproportionately affected. Travel in private and public transport is more significant than in the previous lockdowns.”

Government have also been told by the Cheshire partners that mask wearing in the county is not sufficiently enforceable in indoor public places, or in outdoor areas where people are in close proximity.

Concerns regarding school closures have also been raised, with the original announcement of closures being described as “chaotic” and “poorly communicated by government.”

“The process for partial closure of schools was chaotic and poorly communicated by government, leaving our school staff, parents and pupils to deal with a terrible conflict between the education of children and the protection of public health,” reads the letter.

“Our teachers and support staff, supported by our council teams, have been nothing short of heroic.

“But the constantly changing definition of critical workers and vulnerable children, applied inconsistently between schools facing different local circumstances,has again created confusion.

“We would urge the government to settle on a clear set of guidelines based on medical evidence, which schools can apply flexibly in support of their local circumstances.”

The letter states that the leaders would oppose a premature lifting of the lockdown due to a rapid escalation between tiers during the Christmas period in Cheshire, which created “real suffering amongst the local business community.”

The councils have assured the Secretaries of State that they will will deliver coronavirus testing locally as part of a wider public health response, with tests made available only to those with unavoidable and repeated contact outside their households; including schools, care homes, critical businesses and front-line public services.

To help with this they have asked the government to ensure a sufficient supply of lateral flow devises are meet this need, and funding is made available in order to deliver the programme effectively and safely.

Vaccine roll outs were also a topic addressed in the letter – with the Cheshire partners stating that they welcome the progress that’s being made but admit changes need to be made.

In particular, some residents over 80 in Cheshire were sent a letter for them to attend a Manchester city centre site for a coronavirus vaccine.

The letter added: “We urge you to learn lessons from the role out of local track and trace which has been hampered by excessive command-and-control, and the confusion created by the recent letter sent to some over-80s about the regional vaccine sites.

“For most of our over-80s,attendance at the Manchester city centre site is not a viable or safe option, and we will need a greater focus on more accessible and community-based sites if progress is to be made rapidly.”

The letter has been sent by Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, Cllr Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cllr Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, Cllr Russ Bowden, leader of Warrington Borough Council, Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, Cllr Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Borough Council and David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire.

You can read the letter in full here.