New data shows Covid deaths falling in Greater Manchester

It's the first drop we've seen since mid-September

Good morning Millers - welcome to this week’s Mill briefing.

The big news is that Covid hospital deaths have fallen for the first time in more than two months. That story and our round-up of the other news you need to know about is below, plus a few things to “do” this week.

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News briefing

Deaths falling | For more than two months now, the number of Covid patients dying in our hospitals has been rising every week. Now, for the first time since mid-September, that grim run is over. According to the latest figures for the week ending Thursday, 33 patients died per day after testing positive for the virus, down slightly on the week ending a few days before. We will need to wait a bit longer to see if this trend in the 7-day average continues, but it looks like the second wave of Covid deaths in Greater Manchester might have peaked about a week ago - in the week ending last Monday - when deaths averaged 35 per day. The peak week of the second wave saw 57 deaths per day in mid-April, as you can see on the graph below, which shows the 7-day average of daily hospital deaths since the start of the pandemic.


Remember that last week we saw a drop in hospital admissions and infection rates. Those case rates have continued to fall in the past few days, although they remain very high in comparison to other areas. Oldham has the second-highest rate of any local authority in England but it has fallen 17% in a week, and Rochdale has the eighth highest despite a 12% drop. Manchester, Trafford and Stockport now have the lowest rates in GM.

University video | Recent tensions between the University of Manchester and some of its students continue to simmer. Last night three security guards were suspended by the university while it investigated allegations that a student had been racially profiled. A video posted on social media shows the student being pushed against a wall on Friday night and asked for his student ID. It’s alleged that the guards said to the students that he “looked like he didn’t belong here” but that line was not caught on film. The incident is the latest in a series of social media blow-ups in which students at UoM accuse the university of heavy-handedness, most notably when security fences were erected around halls two weeks ago.

Building boom | Work has begun on the 40-storey Viadux tower in Deansgate, which will be 138 metres high, the MEN reports. The paper says the project is evidence that Manchester’s building boom is continuing despite the pandemic and economic downturn. The story quotes a series of property industry figures sounding bullish (as of course, you would expect them to sound) about the market, with Will Lewis, founding director of real estate firm OBI Property, saying: "The amount of applications for big schemes is up on the last three years." Lewis also says there is still strong demand for office space, which he attributes to companies “northshoring” - moving some of their operations up North to save money.

Viadux in Deansgate is designed by SimpsonHaugh and Partners, the same architects who designed the next-door Beetham Tower

Northern agenda | The departure of the Prime Minister’s top advisor Dominic Cummings from Downing Street raises questions about the future of the government’s “levelling up” agenda. Cummings and his side-kick Lee Cain (Number 10s Director of Communications, who also left) are both from the North and were the architects of an election strategy which won Red Wall seats. This morning The Times reports that Boris Johnson has been reassuring his northern MPs that his political reset “won’t forget the North” and that promised infrastructure spending will materialise. But the paper notes: “Many northern MPs believe that the Downing Street faction that ousted Mr Cummings and Mr Cain is too London-centric in its worldview.”

IKEA | Police were called to the IKEA in Ashton yesterday after massive queues of cars built up at the “click and collect” facility and some customers became abusive with staff. Shoppers reported being stuck in their cars for hours, which IKEA blamed on “unprecedented demand”. One woman who had come from Preston to pick up some kitchen shelving told the MEN: “It’s ridiculous to be honest... Something has gone wrong.”

A good read: The Guardian published an interesting magazine piece about Andy Burnham this weekend. The paper’s North of England editor Helen Pidd interviewed Burnham for the piece, but also recalls previous encounters with him before he was mayor, including a visit to his family home. “Perhaps his biggest flaw is an overriding need to be liked, which can force him to be too many different things to too many different people,” Pidd writes. Burnham evidently liked the piece judging by his reply to Pidd’s tweet here.

Things to do this week

Lecture | On Wednesday, you can watch a lecture about the “two brothers of Manchester Museum.” It’s about one of the museum’s central exhibits - an Egyptian tomb that contains two men - Nakht-ankh and Khnum-nakht - and was discovered in 1907. Book tickets here.

Film | HOME continues to stream the films it was going to show in its cinemas, and on Thursday and Friday evenings you can catch High Rise eState of Mind, a movie about council estates, class and generational frustration. It tells its story through spoken word and rap, and you can book it here.

Discussion | The John Rylands Library is broadcasting a discussion on Thursday morning about the food eaten and spread by European settler-colonists. Dr Rachel Winchcombe from The University of Leeds and plant scientist Professor Amanda Bamford from The University of Manchester have been filmed on location at the library, and you can book your place here.

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From the archives: This summer we published a long-form story about a series of disappearances of Vietnamese students across the country, including from a school in Manchester. Here’s how it began:

Just over three years ago, on the afternoon of Friday May 26 2017, Tower FM listeners learned that three Vietnamese teenagers had gone missing.  The local radio station covers Bury and Bolton, and it had picked up the story because one of the teenagers - a 17-year-old girl called Trang Thu Nguyen - had disappeared from the Bury area. Her two friends, Trung Dao and Hoai Thi Nguyen, both aged 16, had gone missing from Moston in Manchester on the same day. 

And that day was now almost a fortnight ago. Police were growing increasingly concerned for the teenagers’ welfare. Detective Sergeant Ian Partington from the Bury station of Greater Manchester Police asked the public to get in touch. “If anyone recognises the people in the photos, please come forward,” he said. 

The news of their disappearance wasn’t a particularly big story. Sadly, there’s nothing unusual about Vietnamese teenagers going missing - they are the foreign nationality you are most likely to see on the police’s missing persons database. Around the same time, another seven Vietnamese minors went missing from a care home in Rochdale, having arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry. 

But there was something very unusual about Trang and her two friends - something that wasn’t made public at the time. They had gone missing from a private school. 

Read the story here.

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