AT least 25 per cent of new coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester have stemmed from the variant of Covid-19 that has shaken the south east, metro mayor Andy Burnham has been told.

In a remote press conference today, Mr Burnham revealed data from December 14 to 20 revealing data which found a quarter of new cases are from the new strain but that figure is "probably" higher.

Mr Burnham shared data which showed the seven-day rate of positive cases per 100,000 people has increased in nine out of the 10 boroughs. 

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And that the occupancy in intensive care and high dependency bed has increased.

That rate is at 82.3 per cent, which is in a "management position" at present.

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Despite infection rates being lower in Greater Manchester than national average, the mayor said directors of public health in the region agreed that the Government's decision to shift the region from Tier 3 to Tier 4 is the "correct decision".

As well as the variant, health experts believe that, despite the majority of residents following the restrictions, there has still been "too much mixing".

He said: "We accept that the Tier 4 decision is the right one but I have to say that the announcement was made with very short notice.

"It came as something out of the blue."

Mr Burnham also questioned the national split in tiers and the effectiveness of Tier 3 on reducing infection rates.

With the new changes 78 per cent of the country is in Tier 4 but he believes there should be more of a national approach.

The mayor also said around 35,000 people in Greater Manchester have been vaccinated so far and that around half of them are frontline staff.

It is planned that there will be 55 vaccination sites open in the region by the end of January but there are fears that there are not enough staff to cope with the challenge.

And efforts will be made to recruit more workers, which may involve an appeal for recently retired healthcare staff to return to work and help with the programme.

Mr Burnham expects the next couple of months to be challenging but believes, if the vaccination programme works as planned, then the region's position will be stronger in March.

The mayor also called for the Government to bring in more support to schools with testing and protect vulnerable members of staff.

And he called for more clarity on more support for students who are set to take exams in the coming months despite the disruption caused to their classes. 

He also reiterated his view that businesses, which have not received financial support during the pandemic, should be provided with financial support.  

Looking to the new year, Mr Burnham finished the briefing with an air of optimism.

He said: "I am pretty certain 2021 will be much better than 2020.

"We have got a couple of hurdles before we can be certain of that though.

"People have made a lot of sacrifises and it is because of them sacrifises that we are in a lot better position than the rest of the country.

"If we keep the causes low and get ahead of the vaccinations then I think Greater Manchester can be in a much bettwe position.

"We have an opportunity to really plan our exit route and I urge everyone to take it."