BORIS Johnson can save Freedom Day on June 21 if he diverts jabs to Manchester now to clamp down on the Indian variant, Andy Burnham has said.
The city’s mayor said implementing surge vaccinations in areas where the new strain is spreading most would be “beneficial for the whole country”.
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He insisted it’s worth “slowing down” the rollout in some parts of the UK where case numbers are still very low to get on top of their surge.
Ministers yesterday announced a new package of emergency support to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire battle the Indian variant.
Army units are being sent in to help with surge testing and getting people out to vaccination centres.
But on the advice of scientists the Government hasn’t increased the supply of jabs to the most affected areas.
Doing so would allow them to get down the age range faster and jab young adults who are largely behind the surge of infections.
Mr Burnham said: “We would say surge vaccine supplies into high case areas. The need is now to stop the spread of the virus.
“We’re not asking for more vaccine supplies, we’re just saying bring forward the supplies allocated to Greater Manchester to now.”
He added: “Of course it would slow the vaccination programme in other parts of the country where the cases are lower.
“If the Government goes with what I’m saying, we are ready to go. We could crack on with that vaccination programme right now.
“It will have more impact vaccinating young people in June than vaccinating them in July. That will be beneficial for the whole of the country.
“It will build confidence around the roadmap, the date of June 21 – or as close to June 21 as the Government can manage.
“That is something we should have further movement on because it’s in everyone’s interest we stop the spread of the Delta variant.”
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick defended the decision not to divert jabs, saying it was based on the advice of Government scientists.
Responding to Mr Burnham, he said: “He’s right that we are essentially in a race between the virus and the vaccine rollout.
“Nationally we’re doing extremely well at that and we are vaccinating people as quickly as we can with the supplies that we have available to us.
“At the moment we’re going to stick with the advice from the JCVI, our advisors, that it’s better to continue to work down the age categories on a national basis rather than adopt a regional or geographical approach.
“Their advice has served us well so far as the country. They’ve got the big calls right since the start of the vaccine rollout.”
He added: “So we’re going to continue with that approach, but try to do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for people in Greater Manchester to get to the vaccine centres.
“Or indeed to go to the mobile vaccine buses that will be out and about throughout the region over the course of the next few days and weeks.”
The new support package is based on one rolled out in neighbouring Bolton, which has helped bring cases right back under control.
More than six million Brits living in Indian variant hotspots have been asks to “minimise” travel in and out of their local areas.
New guidance also advises people in affected regions to meet others outdoors and work from home where possible.
Mask wearing has also been brought back in secondary schools.
Mr Burnham said “people are gathering to watch the football over the weekend” should choose to “meet in the garden if you can”.
Ministers insist the new rules are not legally binding, but rather a plea to residents to exercise “personal responsibility”.
Mr Jenrick said: This isn’t a return to the local lockdowns that we saw last year.
“People can play their part by limiting their contact with other people, taking the guidance seriously, and above all by going out and getting vaccinated.”