Dismissing regional mayors from crucial meetings negatively impacted the United Kingdom’s pandemic response, as Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan expressed during the Covid inquiry.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Labour mayors of London and Greater Manchester stated that their repeated requests to attend emergency Cobra meetings were denied.
Mayor of London, Khan, stated that “lives might have been saved” had he been granted permission to arrive earlier.
“London-centric” decision-making, according to Greater Manchester’s Mr. Burnham.
Ministers and officials from relevant departments and agencies meet at Cobra meetings since the epidemic to coordinate the government’s response to national emergencies.
Restricted Access Despite Elevated Covid-19 Levels
Although London encountered elevated levels of COVID-19 compared to other regions nationwide in early 2020, Mr. Khan declared that he would be permitted to participate in Cobra meetings on March 16th.
According to the inquiry, No. 10 denied his earlier requests to attend because invitations would be necessary for other regional mayors.
“I was informed that London was experiencing the effects of the pandemic before the rest of the nation,” Mr. Khan stated.
The government knew about the difficulties encountered in intensive care units (ICUs), our institutions, and community transmission in London.
He stated, “I cannot fathom any rationale… for the absence of the Greater London Authority and the mayor of London at the negotiating table in this specific instance.”
Arriving earlier might have preserved lives.
He added that there was no reason why additional mayors could not have participated virtually in meetings.
Government’s Lack of Transparency and Collaboration
Mr. Khan told the inquiry that the government “kept him in the dark” and that he would have taken more action, including lobbying the prime minister for an earlier lockdown, if he had been provided with a complete picture.
Before the inquiry, Mr. Burnham testified that he “repeatedly” requested invitations to Cobra meetings throughout the pandemic but did not receive any.
The mayor of Greater Manchester stated that decision-making centered on London left his region “stuck” with higher Covid rates for 2020.
Concerning the May 2020 relaxation of the nationwide closure, which Mr. Burnham deemed “too early” for Greater Manchester, he stated that there was “zero consultation” with him in advance.
Furthermore, he stated that because Covid had spread from the south to the north of England, the north at the time was closer to a peak in cases than the south.
Mr. Burnham expressed “astonishment” at the inquiry regarding the “massively centralized” response to the pandemic.
In the summer of 2020, local leaders gave the mayor only an hour’s notice to meet and discuss the imposition of restrictions in Greater Manchester before their announcement.
Residents “deluged” him with inquiries regarding whether they could report working the following day, he said, characterizing the situation as “chaotic.”
Ineffective Three-Tier System and National Quarantine
In October 2020, authorities implemented a formal three-tier system, subjecting different regions of England to varying restrictions contingent upon local Covid rates.
Despite this, the escalating number of cases and fatalities overwhelmed the system, leading to the implementation of a nationwide quarantine for four weeks in November.
Mr. Burnham stated that he had frequently requested additional financial assistance for companies and employees impacted by stricter restrictions.
As someone who had “stooped up” for those who would have struggled to endure confinement measures without additional financial assistance, he accused the government of contemplating a “punishment” for his region.
The mayor presented a meeting minute of the government’s “Covid-O” committee, which stated: “Given Greater Manchester’s greater cooperation, Lancashire should be subject to a less stringent set of measures than Lancashire.”
When queried about the accusation that he was “obstructive” during financial support discussions, Mr. Burnham responded that the government had acted “terribly” by implementing a policy that ministers, according to him, were well aware would fail.
Mr. Burnham stated, citing written testimony provided by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, “He states in his testimony regarding tier three, ‘I was despondent that we announced a policy that we knew would fail.'”
Government Communication Issues and Lack of Collaboration
Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region, subsequently testified before the inquiry and criticized how the government communicated with local leaders throughout the pandemic.
The Labour mayor stated that his team had to await the evening news bulletin concerning virtually every major announcement.
He emphasized discussions regarding promoting his region to tier three, stating that he and then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously promised to collaborate on announcing the move in the autumn of 2020.
Mr. Rotheram, however, stated later that day that the Prime Minister proclaimed the restrictions “without notifying me.”
Attempting to pick up the fragments was the next step, he continued.
As a result of the confusion and outrage surrounding the announcement, Mr. Rotheram claimed he received “direct threats” and required round-the-clock police protection.
Until Christmas, officials will take witness statements in London, and after that, they will relocate the investigation to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.