Coronavirus: Boris Johnson warns Greater Manchester leaders he could impose Tier 3 measures despite resistance

Row over highest level of Covid restrictions

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Friday 16 October 2020 17:40 BST
Boris Johnson confirms there has been no agreement with Manchester over coronavirus restrictions

Boris Johnson has warned local leaders in Greater Manchester he is prepared to act after they resisted moves to place the area under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.  

The prime minister said he would “much rather not impose” severe measures, like those seen in Liverpool.  

He added, however, that if “agreement cannot be reached I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester’s residents.”  

He also appeared to attempt to pile pressure on the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, saying time was "of the essence".

He said: "On recent trends, in just over two weeks there will be more Covid patients in intensive care than at the peak of the first wave so I urge the mayor to reconsider and engage constructively.

"I cannot stress enough: time is of the essence. Each day that passes before action is taken means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care and tragically more people will die.

"Of course, if agreement cannot be reached, I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester's hospitals and save the lives of Manchester's residents.

"But our efforts would be so much more effective if we work together."

He added that it would be wrong to bring in a national lockdown and close businesses in Cornwall, where rates are lower, in order to cut the number of infections in the north west.  

But he refused to rule out a nationwide ‘circuit break’, or mini-lockdown, within the next four weeks. 

He also said his government "stands ready" to apply more draconian restrictions if necessary but wanted to do in collaboration with local leaders.

Earlier Lancashire became the second area of England to be placed under ‘Tier 3’ restrictions.

From Saturday, the new measures mean all pubs and bars must close unless they serve ‘substantial’ meals.  

Casinos, bookmakers, betting shops and soft play areas will also be forced to close their doors.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told locals that without the changes "we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable, and your local NHS services. Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported."

A furious row between local politicians and the government has so far meant Greater Manchester has not moved into the "very high" risk category.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused the Mr Burnham of trying to "hold the government over a barrel" by resisting more severe restrictions.  

Mr Burnham has warned the proposals are not guaranteed to bring the outbreak under control.

He, along with North Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, has called for an 80 per cent furlough scheme for those whose livelihoods are affected by regional lockdowns.

Mr Burnham later took to Twitter to say: "It's not about what we want for ourselves, Dominic Raab.

"It's about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness."

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