‘The people of Rochdale are going to suffer’ – How Greater Manchester’s COVID hotspot reacted to Tier 3

It was just a bag of bread, milk, eggs and baked beans, but for Jane Little and her family, it makes every bit of difference.

Without her doorstep delivery from a grassroots charity in Rochdale she really struggles to find the money from her benefits to feed her three grown-up children who all have special needs.

“I don’t eat some days so they can,” she said.

“Lots of people are struggling, people are losing their jobs round here [which] is making it worse.”

Her town now has the unenviable title of Greater Manchester’s COVID-19 hotspot.

It’s the birthplace of the co-operative movement and that spirit of collaboration for the common good is being reinvented through the pandemic.

Tier 3 restrictions are on their way, but Jane has been struggling to keep up with which rules apply to her for weeks now.

“I just don’t know anymore, I watch the news and you get depressed and anxious… I don’t know what I should be doing.”

Her priority is just keeping safe and feeding her family.

The latest delivery is from the group Muslims for Britain in Rochdale who have been delivering food parcels to people throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Organiser Zak Khan told Sky News: “There is no easy call when it comes to deciding on these sort of restrictions.

“For me it is health before wealth so we have to accept the rules and just do our best to ensure businesses continue to survive in this difficult time.

“It is potentially catastrophic for many businesses but for me, the restrictions are absolutely vital to save lives.”

In the old magistrates court building in Rochdale volunteers were running their weekly drop-in centre, where people who are struggling can find a hot meal and some support.

Volunteer Leon Hollinrake said the row between London and Manchester over the financial package for Tier 3 restrictions made little difference to the immediate need they are seeing grow week-by-week.

He said: “From what I can see on this doorstep the people of Rochdale borough are going to suffer…. they are the ones… the ones who have been coming here in their hundreds and thousands over the last few months, they are the ones who are going to suffer.”

“It’s not just about the money – lives are at stake here,” he added.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he was fighting for a fairer settlement from government on behalf of the people who will suffer most due to the new restrictions.

People like Jane in Rochdale. Like many people here she doesn’t want to have to follow a political drama to find out what’s happening.

She just wants to know what she can do, what she can’t do and some certainty that she can feed herself and her children. It isn’t a big ask.

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