Pub in Manchester Photo: Richerman at English Wikipedia / cropped from original / licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, linked at bottom of article

New lockdown measures introduced in Great Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire are an incoherent farce, argues Chris Neville.

Millions of people here in Greater Manchester, plus others in East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, are today in a state of bewilderment after having additional measures enforced to deal with increasing coronavirus infection rates in the region.

The measures, announced on Matt Hancock’s Twitter feed last night, show clearly the government’s strategy of prioritising the economy over health. New rules mean you will still be able to go to the pub, sink a few pints, grab a takeaway and get a taxi home but you can’t go and see your mum in her back garden.

As one Twitter user has pointed out ‘Basically you can’t see anyone inside unless there’s a card reader present for you to spend money’. There is no logic to this in terms of controlling the spread of infection and the increased transmission rates clearly coincide with the recent lifting of lockdown measures.

Of course, the timing of the lockdown in relation to Eid has brought about many more questions, with lots of suspicion that this is a preventative measure to block Muslim families visiting one another.

There were more worrying signs today as the Tory MP Craig Whittaker went on LBC to pass the blame onto the BAME community. Whittaker said that the BAME community was not taking the current measures seriously enough and blamed Muslims and migrant workers that lived in houses of multiple occupancy, which seems to be putting the blame on poor people for the crime of simply being poor.

Many of the areas under restriction have large Muslim and migrant populations and we know that BAME workers are much more likely to be exposed to COVID 19 as they are much more likely to be frontline workers.

As usual, Labour’s response under Keir Starmer has been poor. He has criticised the communication of the government but supported the measures put in place, despite the many irregularities they contain.

He has though correctly pointed out that a lack of effective track and trace still means that any additional measures to contain localised outbreaks will be too late, perhaps in reaction to the mass outrage at the government’s latest decision.

As we remain one of the worst countries affected by COVID 19 and with no clear end in sight, it is clear that the government has failed in every way to protect us from the virus. The priority is and always has been economic recovery at the expense of our wellbeing and health.

These poorly thought-out measures to contain local outbreaks along with the impending end to the furlough scheme show that things could get much worse in the coming months.

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