Andy Burnham says damning report into Covid response 'validates' concerns about parts of north being hit harder by pandemic

A mayor has claimed that a damning report into the Government’s response to the pandemic “validates” concerns that parts of the North of England were hit harder than the South.

Andy Burnham has said that any more “drastic action” needs to be taken at a national level, rather than being regionalised, as he said he does not want to see a return to local lockdowns.

The intervention from the Mayor of Greater Manchester comes as the Prime Minister’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, branded Boris Johnson a “joke” and the Government’s system of dealing of crises a “disaster”.

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The report, from MPs on the Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, was made public yesterday and said the UK’s preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu, while Ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham arrives at Media City in Salford, to appear on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show (PA)

In the wide-ranging study stretching to 151 pages, MPs criticised the fact community testing was abandoned in March 2020 as a “seminal error”, said NHS test and trace was too slow and failed to have a big impact, and that thousands of people died in care homes partly due to a policy of discharging people from hospital without testing.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Burnham said: “The evidence is now clear that we have been harder hit by the pandemic than other parts of the country and not helped by some of the decisions that were made at a national level.

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“That has led our health service to be more disrupted than other parts of the country, our schools and younger people to have their education more disrupted than other parts of the country and also greater damage to the economy. We don’t want to see any return to local lockdowns. If there has to be drastic action taken then we would say it’s got to be done at a national level.”

Research published in November last year revealed that the North had been hit harder than the rest of England during the coronavirus pandemic, “exacerbating” regional inequalities.

The Northern Health Science Alliance also found the mortality rate, even after factoring in deprivation, ages and ethnicity, was worst in the North.

Yesterday, Cabinet Minister Steve Barclay refused to apologise for the Government’s early response to the coronavirus crisis and said that Ministers were “learning about it as we went through”.

Mr Barclay said: “Of course there are going to be lessons to learn, that’s why we’ve committed to an inquiry, but the Government took decisions at the time based on the scientific advice it received.

“But those scientists themselves were operating in a very new environment where they themselves were learning about the pandemic.”