New study shows vaccines are working 'spectacularly' well

Plus: the latest Covid data for GM, and the council loses at the High Court

Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing. Today we have the latest Covid-19 data, news of how the government is going to ease the lockdown, some great recommendations for how to fill your time, and our first ever poem.

If you missed it, our weekend read was a lovely piece by Dani interviewing and photographing female skaters in Manchester. “Articles like this are why I read the local newspaper of a city I've never been to,” one Miller posted on Twitter. You can share the story on Facebook here.

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The big story: Lockdown loosens

Top line: In the past few hours the government has confirmed the first dates in its grand plan to ease lockdown restrictions. Here are the key details:

  • Two weeks today, March 8th, students will return to schools in England.

  • Also from March 8th, two people from different households will be allowed to meet outdoors to have a coffee or socialise, and care home residents will be allowed to have one regular visitor with whom they can hold hands.

  • Then, from March 29th, two families or six people will be able to meet outdoors, and sports like tennis and golf will be permitted.

There’s been no word on gyms, and the emphasis on loosening restrictions on outdoor activities means that hospitality will also be waiting longer to reopen.

More details of the dates and the new rules will be announced by the Prime Minister later today, first to parliament at 3.30pm and then at a press conference at 7pm. You can watch both on the BBC News Channel.

Crucially for GM: Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the breakfast TV shows that the government has chosen a “gradual reopening of the whole of England” rather than regional tiers.

Context: The loosening of lockdown is predicated on the progress of the UK’s vaccine roll-out. This morning we got big news on the efficacy of the vaccine: a study by Public Health Scotland has found that the two jabs we are using are having a very significant impact on the risk of serious illness.

  • “By the fourth week after the first dose hospitalisations were reduced by 85% for the Pfizer jab and 94% for the AstraZeneca vaccine,” the BBC reports. We will get the figures for England later today.

  • Lead researcher Prof Aziz Sheikh described the results as "very, very" impressive and said vaccines are working "spectacularly".

Reaction: Andy Burnham tweeted this morning that “The leaks of the PM’s roadmap sound like it is on the right lines,” although he added that bringing back all secondary school year groups on the same day “sounds risky”.

The latest Covid-19 numbers for Greater Manchester are lower down in this briefing.

Cartoon by Mill member and longtime Private Eye sketcher Tony Husband, who we interviewed recently.

This week’s weather

The location of this forecast is Manchester and it’s sourced from the Met Office.

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates are falling in every GM borough except Tameside and Bury, where cases are rising slightly. The overall GM rate is now 178.1, which is only 9.1% down from the previous week. The rate for England is now 121.3, down 18.9%. In mid-December the GM rate was 155.

  • Hospitals in GM are seeing fewer Covid-19 patients being admitted and the number in critical care is down from 170 three weeks ago to 147 last week. We tweet out the latest hospital data every Wednesday, see the latest graphic here.

  • Vaccine roll-out is continuing apace. 22.5% of people in GM had been jabbed with their first dose (or 639,128 people) when the figures were released last week, which was in line with the progress across England on the same day. 90% of over-70s in GM have now had their first dose.

Home of the week

This Grade 2 listed three-bedroom cottage in Worsley, Salford is on sale for £380,000. It’s a short walk from the beautiful Worsley Green.

Five stories worth reading

1. Council ‘misled’ planning committee

Manchester City Council suffered a major defeat at the High Court on Friday, after its plans to build a 440-space temporary car park near a primary school in the city centre were quashed. “His Honour Judge Bird ruled Manchester council officers ‘misled’ members of the city’s planning committee by relying on error-filled reports regarding air quality impacts,” reports Local Democracy Reporter Niall Griffiths. The council will now have to pay around £35,000 to cover the legal fees of the Trees Not Cars group that pursued the judicial review, plus its own costs.

2. Salford's ‘sensible socialism’

Salford Council has borrowed a lot of money in the past decade — and the city’s ambitious Labour mayor thinks the investments have paid off, driving faster jobs growth than any other borough of Greater Manchester. In this piece for Tribune, Paul Dennett outlines “a radical policy agenda in local government, which I have come to term ‘Sensible Socialism’ – or the Salford Model.” He says that Salford is challenging “the Thatcherite model of hollowed-out councils as procurement hubs for private contracts.”

3. Repairing the Great North Bog

“Conservationists have drawn up plans to create a “Great North Bog” stretching from the Midlands to the Scottish border,” reports The Sunday Times. The plan is to protect and repair 2,700 square miles of upland peat, much of which is eroded and dried out, releasing millions of tonnes of carbon every year. “We’ve got more carbon stored in the UK peat than in all the forests in the UK, France and Germany put together,” says Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District national park.

4. Admiring Withington’s street art

If you’ve visited Withington recently you might have noticed a proliferation of colour in the neighbourhood. That’s because of a community project called Withington Walls, which has been commissioning artists to create striking street art covering various walls and shutters, as this article in Salt Magazine explains. If you haven’t heard of Salt, it’s a great new publication that covers culture in the city and publishes some very talented young writers.

5. Tombstone’s green creds questioned

“Have the planning team really got to grips with environmental policy and practice?,” asks Andrea Sandor in an analysis of the environmental credentials of the controversial 55-storey Hulme Street student tower, nicknamed the 'Tombstone' by locals. She finds a series of un-evidenced claims and seemingly misunderstood metrics in the application, and concludes: “It makes one wonder how many other applications have got through containing just as many fundamental anomalies.”

There are some fascinating old images of Piccadilly Gardens in this post by local blogger and lover of modernist architecture Modern Mooch, as the square has gone through various lives as gardens, bomb shelters, a car park and … whatever it is today.

Coming up

This week, our members-only reporting will include:

  • Local leaders want to make Greater Manchester a “world class” place to grow old. We dig into what that entails, and how far we have to go.

  • How a writer from Wigan tried to get American comic fans interested in super-hero characters from Manchester and the North.

  • Plus: A special report into the provision of free school meals to families in Greater Manchester.

Sign up now to get these stories — plus our members’ mini-briefings — in your inbox, and support our work.

Things to do this week

Podcast | The ‘We Built This City’ podcast has interviewed Bryony Shanahan, who was named Joint Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange a year ago. She talks about the effect Covid has had on live performance and her responsibility to preserve the Exchange for Manchester (it’s a story we covered last year).

Music | Join Manchester Camerata on Friday at 8pm as they perform a new concert of classical music, ‘All Time is Eternally Present’ which was filmed at The Stoller Hall. Head over to their website to book your tickets.

Panel | On Thursday, the Institute and Business Transformation Research Centre and MMU are having a panel discussion ‘Meeting in the Middle: problematising placemaking from the ground up’. Book your place here.

Event | Wigan and Leigh Archives will be hosting a talk ‘The Drag Ball, 1880: Exposing Greater Manchester's Hidden Past’ by Thomas McGrath on Wednesday. The event is online and free to attend, book here.

  • Preview: “In September 1880, Detective Jerome Caminada and his Manchester police force raided a party at the Temperance Hall in Hulme. Once inside they found 47 men and half of them were in women's clothing.”

Poetry | Carcanet Press are celebrating the launch of New Poetries VIII, edited by Michael Schmidt and John McAuliffe. Up until March 18, they’ll be hosting events with readings and discussions. This Thursday expect to hear from Colm Tóibín, Padraig Regan and Victoria Kennefick to name a few.

Letters to the editor

Thank you for highlighting the amazing bravery of Lily Maxwell. I had no idea the first woman in England to vote did so in Manchester, and that it happened long before the victory of the suffrage campaign. It’s wonderful to learn these kinds of things from The Mill and now I know I will be sure to tell my daughter when she grows up - thank you! Rebecca James, Trafford

I enjoyed reading your newsletter about the North West roots of AstraZeneca, but I felt you could have given a bit more attention to the company’s decision to (mostly) vacate Alderley Park. That move was a big blow to the North of England’s scientific capacity and will take many years to recover. We need to find a way of keeping facilities like that in the North and attracting more in the years to come. Roger Greaves, Salford

I saw a funny exchange in my local Facebook group about your article about the ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ controversy in Levenshulme. A local cycling advocate was saying that the article’s headline (‘Residents wanted 'low traffic' streets. They got a neighbourhood war’) was hyperbolic and exaggerated the local tensions over the trial. Then, just minutes later in a different comment, he said his friend had been threatened online for supporting the plan… Which rather proves that the headline was on the money. Sean Cullen, Burnage

Poem: Lapwings in Fallowfield

This poem is from Growlery, a debut collection by local poet Katherine Horrex. The publisher Carcanet says: “Growlery conjures a place haunted by flooded villages, broken ankles, ovarian health and factories. It dwells on a world of civic tensions, in the twilit zone between city and country, the human and the natural.”

Obituary: Trevor Dannatt

Trevor Dannatt was an esteemed British architect known for his elegant modernist designs. He is best remembered for his work on the Royal Festival Hall in London and the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Dannatt was a Professor of Architecture at the University of Manchester where he taught for eleven years. He later formed a respected partnership with one of the students he taught there. Dannatt bequeathed a vast and culturally significant collection of modern art to the university’s Whitworth Gallery.

The Guardian’s obituary explains more:

Dannatt’s best buildings, notably the adult education college that followed in Leicester (1962), teased out complex briefs into long, low forms of surprising elegance. He was most proud of a hall added at Bootham school, York, combining the functions of a lively school theatre with that of a Quaker meeting room. 

He also designed a Quaker Meeting House in his native Blackheath, south London, although he was brought up in the nearby Congregational church — a building he remodelled after wartime bombing but that is now offices.

James Trevor Dannatt, born 15 January 1920, died 16 February 2021.

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