Covid: Keep lockdown decision local, say mayors

FOLLOWING the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, disagreeing with stricter tier 3 lockdown measures for the city, the mayor of Middlesbrough and Tees Valley mayor have spoken about whether a decision should be made by local leaders or the government.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Nobody knows what is needed and what is most important for a particular area more than the leaders and experts who live there. That is why I was pleased last week to be able to spearhead a meeting between myself, council leaders and Downing Street officials so that leaders from across the political spectrum were able to come together to get the best outcome for the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

“Recent data shows the number of coronavirus cases across the Tees Valley is flattening. This needs to come down further, but it shows if we can keep this up, we can avoid the catastrophic consequences of moving into the highest level of restrictions and the extremely difficulty sacrifices that everyone is making are not in vain.

“Our position is constantly being reviewed and in the meantime, I strongly urge everyone in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to follow the rules that are currently in place so that we can get the virus back under control and return to normal as soon as possible.

“None of us want to spend a day longer than is absolutely necessary under these new restrictions, but it would be such a tragedy to waste all of our hard work and all the sacrifices we have made so far.”

Andy Preston, mayor of Middlesbrough, said: “A lockdown does no good unless there is a near term shortage of hospital beds. So unless that looks like being the case we should avoid a lockdown at all costs.”

On whether local leaders should make the decision on lockdown restrictions, he said: “Yes, in conjunction with national government. Local leaders have access to up to the minute data and can put that data into context – and context is everything. We had a case recently where government had misinterpreted data incorrectly due to their lack of local knowledge – this situation proves the necessity of local input to decision making.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside