People have been left “in tears” by the government’s U-turn on local lockdowns in Greater Manchester as they have been forced to cancel plans to see their families, a senior Tory has said.
Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the powerful backbench Tory 1922 Committee, said he was “very disappointed” at health secretary Matt Hancock’s move to reverse last Friday’s decision to lift restrictions in Trafford in defiance of the council.
It came after Labour mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said easing the guidance restricting social gatherings in people’s homes in Trafford and Bolton would be “completely illogical” in the face of rising infections.
The reversal in both boroughs also marked the government’s 12th policy U-turn since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and will only increase the pressure on Boris Johnson, who has been warned by his own MPs to “get a grip”.
Brady, whose constituency is in Trafford, said he was “very disappointed” on behalf of residents who contacted him last week saying “how relieved they were to be able to see their families again”.
The Altrincham and Sale West MP told HuffPost UK: “I’ve had people today saying to me that their mothers or sisters have been in tears because the grandchildren can’t see their grandparents.
“They had arranged things for tonight, or tomorrow or the next weekend or whatever.
“So the emotional hit of being told you can do things, and then you can’t has been really quite bad for a lot of people.”
Brady added: “People are upset that it is illegal once again to meet their families.”
The government had decided social gatherings between two homes can resume for the first time in weeks from Wednesday in the two boroughs as well as Stockport, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.
But a sharp increase in the local infection rate in Bolton and Trafford led to council leaders pleading with the government for a delay just hours before restrictions were lifted.
The government decided to act in Trafford after the rate of new coronavirus cases jumped from 17.8 per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 20 to 36.8 in the seven days to August 31.
A government source said earlier: “So there’s been a huge increase – when the data changes, we act decisively.”
But Brady called for more data, including hospitalisations and death rates, to be used in judging whether to lock down certain areas.
“If you are basing the decision entirely on that metric (infection rates per 100,000) and on which direction that metric is moving, then of course I can understand why the decision has been taken,” he said.
“But other metrics have been more positive.
“As yet, even though we had a spike in cases in Trafford in July, there appears to be no evidence of that translating into an increase in hospital admissions.
“In July, when we were put into the extra restrictions we had falling cases.
“Having had a month or so of the extra restrictions, we now have rising cases.
“But the trends on the more important issues of hospital admissions and fatalities continue, thank heavens, to go in the right direction.”
He said the government is concerned by evidence from other countries suggesting a spike in positive cases could lead to an increase in hospitalisations.
“It could happen here but it hasn’t,” he said. ”And if it were, one might take a tougher approach.
“But while it isn’t there is a very strong case for taking a wider view and including more metrics to make a judgment, given these restrictions are quite extreme and interfere with basic human rights.”