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What A Local Lockdown Could Mean For Manchester Property

What A Local Lockdown Could Mean For Manchester Property
Masks have become the norm during the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester’s coronavirus epidemic is not yet over. The latest educated guestimate is that the north west’s R number — the rate at which the virus spreads — is 1.01, meaning the virus has the capacity for exponential growth. 

The UK government has suggested it would impose local lockdowns in England if viral transmission gets out of control: The policy was reiterated by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday this week.

Council officials in Manchester are reported to believe civil servants in London have been considering citywide lockdowns for some time, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham has raised concerns about local lockdowns. “Talk of putting our communities under lockdown is not helpful," Burnham said on a video posted on Twitter. "Local lockdown is fraught with difficulties. We have serious concerns about it. We don’t have a great deal of detail as to how it would work." 

According to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the list of potential problems includes who decides when a local lockdown is necessary, what the boundaries would be, who would enforce a lockdown, how you support people and business in those areas via a local furlough scheme, and who pays for it. 

Many of Manchester’s big landlords  seem, for now, relaxed about local lockdowns. They did not want to talk on the record but their message was that they have more pressing immediate problems to face, like how to reopen buildings to meet social distancing requirements. Local lockdowns, however unwelcome, are a problem for another day. 

In the agency world, views are divided. 

“We’ve 184 staff in Manchester and we won’t be opening our office for the next few weeks because it isn’t the right thing to do, and everything is working perfectly well remotely, so as the MD of a local business, a second lockdown wouldn’t concern me too much,” Avison Young Regional Managing Director Chris Cheap said.

“But from the point of view of the economy, it would. I’d like to understand how it could work, and its effect on Manchester as a region. We have a reputation in the city for being open for business, and at the forefront when footloose enquiries are looking at the regions, so there would be concern about an additional level of lockdown.”

Manchester Town Hall

In contrast Knight Frank has reopened its Manchester office, with around 20% of staff returning.

“I would like to think that if a local lockdown is put in action, it is for the right reason, to control infection and protect people,” Knight Frank Head of Manchester David Porter told Bisnow.

“The economic impact of a local lockdown depends on how long it lasts," Porter said. "A week or two would mean the effect was minimal. We’re already seeing signs of recovery in Manchester, possibly that would be dampened, but I can’t see it having a huge effect. That said, I can see why local politicians would be cautious. We’re into the unknown here, it all depends how it works, and I can understand why the GMCA might be concerned.”

This is what we know so far.

1. What a local lockdown might mean

Government ministers have suggested a local lockdown might be anything between controlling infection in a particular hospital to closing a city. But there is no definitive answer. Official responses simply point to continuing discussions with local partners.

In Greater Manchester, where local government boundaries run down the middle of roads in tightly packed areas, the preference is not for geographical shutdowns, but a light-touch approach based on test-and-trace. Venues that the test-and-trace programme show to be major sources of infection could be closed.

2. What powers will lockdowns involve?

The government says local lockdowns would come with the same range of powers as the national lockdown.

Local councils say they have neither enough money, or the right powers, to make a local lockdown work.

For now, powers appear to reside with the UK government but they could be devolved to local councils during June, LocalGov reported.

3. Who decides when to begin a local lockdown?

The process will involve local council’s directors of public health working with the local NHS, Public Health England and the new, but not-yet-operative, Joint Biosecurity Centre.