Covid rates in Greater Manchester are SIX times higher than last September - what happens next?

By Steve Robson & Paul Gallagher

Covid rates in Greater Manchester are currently SIX times higher than at the same time last year, the latest data shows.

The Manchester Evening News first began monitoring infection data on a daily basis when the government began publishing it towards the end of last summer.

On September 2, 2020, the coronavirus infection rate for the region was 50.6 cases per 100,000 people.

On the same date this year it was 312.8.

Our graph demonstrates how infection rates in Greater Manchester spiked dramatically throughout September and October last year.

It was a similar picture across the country and eventually forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce a new national lockdown in November.

The contrast this year is that the UK now has more than 65 per cent of the population fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

But there are some concerning signs in Greater Manchester with the number of covid patients in hospitals beginning to rise again.

As this graph shows, overall numbers are around three times higher than at the same point in September 2020.

There were 300 covid patients in hospital in Greater Manchester in the week ending 29 August 2021, compared with 63 in the week ending 29 Aug 2020.

The number of covid deaths is also higher this year compared to last.

There were 37 deaths in week ending September 3 2021 compared to 8 deaths in week ending September 3, 2020.

The infection rate among over-60s also appeared to be increasing - up to 170.7 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending August 18.

Some health experts speculated that vaccine effectiveness may be starting to wane in those first jabbed.

The question for the region's health leaders and the government is whether the autumn spike of 2020 will be repeated and if that will translate into hospital admissions that could overwhelm the NHS.

Hospital admission rates for the UK as a whole have remained above 900 for the past fortnight.

And the government's advisory group SAGE warned last month that the country should expect another surge in covid infections as schools return this year.

“It is highly likely that high prevalence will be seen within schools by the end of September 2021,” the group predicted.

“This may reflect either community or within-school transmission, and the role of schools in driving wider transmission remains uncertain. Regardless of this, it would be sensible for government to plan for this eventuality."

It is for this reason that there is renewed speculation that the government will have to reimpose restrictions in October.

The i newspaper reports today of a potential plan to extend the school half-term holiday, if the number of hospitalisations continue at the current level.

The i said a full lockdown was unlikely - but the government could introduce some rules as part of a "firebreak".

However the report was described as 'incorrect' by the Department for Education in a tweet.

There has also been speculation that Boris Johnson will reintroduce mask-wearing on public transport and social distancing and limits on gatherings in homes.

The prime minister's spokesman also denied the October lockdown report today.

He said plans had been kept for a range of scenarios - "but these kind of measures would only be reintroduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on our NHS".

"I think we've been clear throughout that we will take action, and indeed we have done when necessary to protect our NHS," he said.


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