COVID rates in some northern cities have almost doubled in a week, despite local lockdowns coming into force last Wednesday.
The Manchester COVID rate grew to 3,105 new cases recorded in the seven days to 3 October 3 – the equivalent of 561.6 cases per 100,000 people.
The Liverpool COVID rate also increased sharply, from 325.1 to 516.0 with 2,570 new cases, just a week after the north-west local lockdown restricted social mixing for almost two million people.
But leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds have warned health secretary Matt Hancock that they would not support further “economic lockdowns” and called for new powers to tackle the resurgence.
The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils – Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes – joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to write to the health secretary to say they are “extremely concerned” with the rise in cases, but hit out at the “confusing” regulations.
“The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive,” the Labour politicians wrote.
They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts and for a locally-controlled test and trace system.
Watch: What is a local lockdown?
“We want to be clear however that we do not support further economic lockdowns,” the leaders added.
Health officials are also expecting Nottingham to be placed in lockdown after a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Professor John Edmunds, who is advising the government’s coronavirus response, joined the criticism of local measures on Tuesday, arguing that new national restrictions were needed immediately to bring the pandemic under control.
“These local restrictions that have been put in place in much of the north of England really haven’t been very effective,” he told BBC Newsnight.
“We need to take much more stringent measures, not just in the north of England, we need to do it countrywide, and bring the epidemic back under control.”
He said the government’s current “light touch” measures are just “delaying the inevitable”.
“We will at some point put very stringent measures in place because we will have to when hospitals start to really fill up,” he said. “Frankly, the better strategy is to put them in place now.”
The calls came as the UK-wide seven-day rate increased to 125.7 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people from 63.8 a week ago, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
Daily figures showed there were 14,542 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as of 9am on Tuesday.