Mancunians have been told their partying has to be put on hold as the city’s Covid infection rate rose almost to the government’s red alert threshold.
Latest figures show Manchester recording 49 cases per 100,000, just below the 50 mark that would push it into the government’s riskiest category.
The city’s rate has more than tripled in a month.
Its leaders have now warned that house parties – which are believed to partly be behind the rise – and other inside gatherings must stop, or else Manchester will face full lockdown.
“For now, the party is on hold,” said Coun Bev Craig, executive member for adult health and wellbeing.
“We’ve all had to give up things we enjoy, things we love and things that make us happy.
“We still need to keep up with a lot of that sacrifice over the next few months to keep our numbers down and make sure we don’t have to sacrifice them in the long run.
“We don’t want to go back into full lockdown.”
Manchester’s numbers have been climbing steadily over the past month and the city has been marked ‘amber’ on the government’s watchlist for several weeks.
Since new Greater Manchester-wide restrictions were imposed by the health secretary at the end of July, its numbers have kept rising.
The council believes that is being driven by younger people, in particular those aged 20-30.
Leaders are also worried about the impact of the forthcoming bank holiday weekend.
Their warning comes after police were pelted with missiles when they tried to close down a house party in Gorton at the weekend, as well as dealing with many other gatherings.
Coun Craig said the advice remained the same – and warned the virus is primarily spreading from household to household.
“Simple steps, like not having people round your house, not having house parties and gatherings to not meeting indoors are things we just need to keep going with for a bit longer,” she said.
“We need to be cautious in bars and restaurants but we also need to be cautious in other social spaces too. It’s great Manchester people have been getting back to getting active, and particularly as organised sports sessions start to resume, but we just need to be sure we are following the rules, washing our hands, social distancing and keeping ourselves and our families safe.”
At this afternoon’s Greater Manchester press conference leaders called for an extension to existing measures in nine out of ten boroughs, with Wigan the only exception due to low rates.
They were also insistent that Oldham should not be fully locked down to deal with its high case numbers, with the town hall there believing targeted action is beginning to work.
But Manchester’s leader Sir Richard Leese warned the city’s own numbers were probably going to get worse before they get better.
A decision on Oldham’s lockdown is expected from government tomorrow but in the city next-door, senior figures are conscious their area could yet also be put at risk of the same draconian measure.
Infection rates at neighbourhood level in the city continue to look fairly evenly spread, with the higher numbers in Ardwick, Moss Side, Levenshulme, Burnage, Longsight, Gorton, Beswick, Openshaw and the city centre.
The council has requested several new testing stations from government, which will be placed around the city, including to prepare for the return of students in the coming weeks.
Sir Richard admitted the council was concerned about the situation, but said it was carrying out targeted door knocking, contact tracing and messaging, including to specific groups of people via community leaders.
“We’ve asked government for a number of fixed testing stations as well as use of the mobile testing stations, because it’s always been the case that test, trace contain – particularly the backwards tracing – is a key element of how we maintain an element of control,” he said.
“So of course we continue to be concerned that we’re in the amber category, never mind that we’re moving towards red.
“But we have a very clear action plan, ten-point action plan. It’s been checked with the Cabinet Office, who were inspecting us last week, about the robustness of that.
“But it is likely to take probably two to three weeks before we start to see the impact of that.”