Tide turns as cases start to fall in Greater Manchester

Plus, Oldham online activist Raja Miah arrested

Dearest Millers — we hope you soaked up the last of the heatwave over the weekend. Tomorrow’s forecast shows thunderstorms ⛈.

In case you missed it, our superb weekend read by Jack Dulhanty followed the work of doormen as revellers returned to nightclubs in Manchester. You can read that piece here.

Miah arrested

There’s been a significant development in the story we covered recently about politics and internet conspiracy theories in Oldham. Raja Miah, the online activist who alleges that Oldham’s council has turned a blind eye to Asian grooming gangs, was arrested early on Friday morning.

Miah says he received “a massive series of bangs” on his door at 6.30am and was confronted by six police officers. He’s been questioned on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and malicious communications. Miah says he is innocent and has not been charged. Tomorrow morning we will be sending Mill members a full report on that arrest and how Miah’s followers have responded, so join up now if you want to receive that.

Also coming up this week, we have a lovely members-only piece about second-hand bookshops in Greater Manchester, and a report on the experience of receiving in-home care. Last week we sent members:

  • A fascinating report by Mollie Simpson on a new crop of workers arriving in the city by the day: people whose jobs are based in London but are now moving here because they are allowed to work remotely.

  • An important story by Jacklin Kwan about why Salford Council is using a 'secretive' algorithm to assess welfare claimants.

  • A great piece on Escape to Freight Island and the changing shape of dining and drinking in Manchester, by Dani Cole.

Read all those stories and get our members-only reporting each week by joining up today using the subscribe button above.

This week’s weather

The big story: Covid cases falling

Top line: Since early May, the number of new cases detected in Greater Manchester has been rising almost every day, sometimes quite sharply. This time last week, the GM case rate was higher than at any time since proper testing began last summer, overtaking the massive earlier waves of the virus. But in the past five or six days, the tide has finally turned.

Look at the graph below. Specifically, the right-hand side of it, which shows new cases in GM dipping. The same trend is happening across the country. The GM case rate is now 524, down 12.8% on the previous week, compared to England’s 445.8, down 6.2%. All this means that cases are still really, really high, but at least the direction of travel has changed.

  • Wigan and Oldham continue to have the highest infection rate in GM of over 700.

  • Bolton has the lowest rate — around the 500 mark.

What’s going on? Honestly, we have no idea. Some people have speculated that the virus has now burned through many of the young who hadn’t had it before, and is running out of carriers. Others say the vaccination programme has stemmed the spread. It’s also possible that cases among the young were being driven up by large football-related gatherings and the mixing of kids at school, both of which are now not happening. This trend is less than a week old and whereas in past spikes it was lockdowns that seem to have pushed down cases, this time something else is clearly at play.

What about Freedom Day? Most people were expecting rates to keep soaring at the end of July as a result of “freedom day” and all its associated social mixing (re-opening nightclubs, ending social distancing, removing mask rules, etc). But because there’s a lag on people testing positive after catching the virus, and a lag on reporting (the most recent day on the graph above is last Thursday, because more recent days have incomplete data), the effects of the removal of restrictions aren’t showing up yet. We will watch for those in the coming weeks.

Volunteers are trained by St John Ambulance instructors to administer Covid-19 vaccines at Manchester United’s base. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

More good news: Last week we learned that the number of Covid-19 patients in critical care in Greater Manchester was actually down to 61, having been 75 the week before, and 67 the week before that. It’s another indication that the vaccines have broken the link between high case rates and the number of people suffering from really serious illness. Remember, rates are now much higher than we saw in February, and at that time we saw 170 GM patients in critical beds.

And finally: Over 1.4 million GM residents have had both doses of the vaccine, including 92% of over 70s, 84% of 50-69s and 39% of 18-49s. The overall percentage is 59%, and these numbers were updated a week ago. GM had been falling behind national vaccination rates for a few weeks, but last week the gap slightly narrowed again.

Other local news in brief

  • Paramedics and firefighters were kept away from the wounded at Manchester Arena for two hours and 12 minutes, according to an extraordinary account of the night by Mill member David Collins in the Sunday Times. Inspector Dale Sexton, GMP’s force duty officer, activated Operation Plato, which designated the City Room as a “hot zone”, because of reports of an active shooter. But armed officers who attended the scene told Sexton that there was no shooter, “just dozens of casualties in urgent need of medical help.” Read more.

  • Metrolink services face disruption today. Over 40 trams’ pantographs — which draw power from overhead electricity lines — have been damaged. A Sunday timetable is in place and will continue until further notice. Read more.

  • A GP is facing a tribunal in Manchester today after running an unregistered transgender clinic. Dr Helen Webberley prescribed puberty blockers to children as young as 12. She was suspended by the General Medical Council and fined £12,000 in December 2018. Read more.

  • A Leigh librarian has been dismissed by Wigan Council after publicly criticising the involvement of Beijing Construction Engineering Group International in the council’s regeneration plans for The Gallery shopping centre. Maureen O'Bern claims she voiced her concerns internally, but after being “ignored,” took to Facebook. Read more.

  • Oldham will have a new secondary school after plans for a 1,200 pupil academy were approved. Planning officer Graham Dickman told councillors that the Brian Clarke Church of England Academy building had been designed with a “mill aesthetic”. Read more.

Stories from the street

A flash of colour catches my eye in Piccadilly Gardens. I meet 16-year-old Kayshce, who’s from Stretford and is taking a rest by the fountain. Kayshce, who identifies as non-binary, is studying hairdressing at college and tells me their hair was “supposed to be braids, but I got bored.” Nonetheless, these hair extensions alone took about 4 hours to put in. After college Kaysche would like to be a professional braider, creating intricate patterns with people’s hair.

Grist to The Mill: If you want to tell us about a story or pass us some information, please email joshi@manchestermill.co.uk, mollie@manchestermill.co.uk or dani@manchestermill.co.uk. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.

Home of the week

This 2-bedroom cottage in a hamlet in Stockport is on the market for £325,000, and is estimated to be one of the oldest properties in the area, built around 1620.

Our favourite reads

i-D Magazine: Relive the buzz of a little-photographed Stone Roses gig on Spike Island in 1990. Ryan White writes: “Even if the concert turned out to be more ‘shambolic’ than ‘iconic’, these pictures — chosen and captioned by Dave himself below — will certainly make you wish you’d been part of the chaos.” Read more.

The Times: This amusing review of MIF21 “eco-concert” The Patience of Trees finds mystery, whimsy, and strangeness in the show’s atmosphere. “Each instrumentalist played from an iPad. The tickets should have said: ‘No trees were killed in the making of this concert.’” Read more.

The Guardian: A divisive battle over open-water swimming is emerging, Helen Pidd writes. After a wave of recent deaths, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has urged people not to swim in open water at all, regardless of how hot it is, while swimming coaches say this messaging is “as bad as trying to deliver abstinence-only sex education.”

The Spectator: We loved this book review of a series of lost interviews with Pete Shelley, the co-founder of Buzzcocks. Helen Barrett writes: “The old story about how the movement changed from an obscure London scene to a cultural phenomenon at Manchester gigs arranged by Buzzcocks is retold here. It may be true or it may be exaggerated, but it is an irresistible tale.”

We love this golden hour photo of Manchester. Posted by u/Coopscw on Reddit.

Things to do

Festival | Have you ever been to a festival in a garden centre? Now’s your chance — Green Island Festival kicks off in Hulme Garden Centre this weekend, promising a “sanctuary from a hectic urban lifestyle”, including a lineup of DJs, bands and speakers, as well as dance. Find out more here.

Online talk | Elizabeth Gaskell’s house is running a series of talks in partnership with Brontë Parsonage Museum about the life of novelist Charlotte Brontë. This week’s talk will examine Gaskell’s biography of Brontë. Gaskell was the first woman to write the biography of the woman writer, and it “remains a classic of the genre.” Information and tickets here.

Comedy | Expect a barrel of laughs on Sunday, as Frog and Bucket Comedy club are paying a visit to Homeground as part of their summer show. MC Brennan Reece hosts Kiri Pritchard McLean, Tez Ilyas and Bethany Black. Book here.

Dinosaurs | Get the little ones out for a wild weekend in Wythenshawe — a "prehistoric adventure” awaits in Dino Kingdom. They’ll be fairground rides, food, drink, and 3D dinosaurs to keep everyone entertained. Find out more.

Northern soul | Kyla Brox, a Mancunian singer who has been hailed as “the finest female blues singer of her generation” is performing this Saturday at the Cabaret Club in Sale. Her performances are billed as “powerful, often joyous” and “always emotional.” Book here.

Book of the Week: The Shining Mountain

Trying to get away from the heat over the past week has been near impossible, but we enjoyed reading this mountaineering account by Stockport-born Peter Boardman, who died in 1982 along with Joe Tasker on the north east ridge of Mount Everest. One detail that we particularly relished was that Peter and Joe tested out their hammocks in a Salford frozen-food store to replicate the icy conditions of high altitude, and they had to negotiate with a security guard to let them in.

“I’ll open it up at six in the morning,’ he said. “You can sleep in that corner if you want, above the ice cream.”

The Shining Mountain is available to buy here.

Experiences of care: We are writing about the state of at-home care in Greater Manchester. If you are a carer or require home care help, please contact dani@manchestermill.co.uk. All information is handled sensitively and in confidence.

Letters to the editor

Absolutely loved this article (‘Life on the door’), and I loved the turns of phrase even more. I worked at a club on Oldham Street around the Millenium and the bar staff and the door staff had a brilliant relationship, we had a lot of fun. It’s a tough job. Really disturbing to hear about a more widespread lack of respect although there were always people who abused doormen and women. It’s too easy, whatever your age, if you’ve lived through your phone for 18 months, curating the world around you via social media and keeping a tight circle in real life, to not know how to interact with a range of people. Add being entitled into the mix or any kind of racial abuse and it becomes sickening. One demographic’s fun and the money they spend shouldn’t be more important than anything else. Nothing is ever an excuse for treating people as less than human. Leah, Old Trafford

How could you not mention Grub (‘Freight Expectations: Pandemic-era partying at Manchester’s hottest dining spot’) — the original and best street food gaff in Manchester? They paved the way for Freight Island everything you mention in your story. I knew of Grub first as they were running one-off events in town and on Levy. They then started running foodie events at places like Alphabet brewery, and other arches in the Piccadilly part of town. They then ran an outdoor food court at Mayfield, and an indoor one at Fairfield social club. They are an independent, supporting independents and they aim (like Levy Market) to help small traders get experience and move on. We were gutted when they left Mayfield. Emily, Stockport