PM warns of tougher restrictions for Manchester unless mayor backs down from stand-off | UK | News (Reports)

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The Prime Minister said “time is of the essence” in the effort to crack down on the virus in the city, with infections soaring every day.

Turning up the heat on Mr Burnham for not agreeing to a Tier 3 lockdown, the PM said further delays would cost lives.

Mr Johnson warned that if there was a continued failure to reach an agreement, he will take action on his own.

His remarks came as the UK recorded another 15,650 coronavirus cases – while 136 more deaths took the total to 43,429.

During a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: “On present 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 will be so much more effective if we work together.”

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The Prime Minister has turned up the heat on Andy Burnham for not agreeing to a Tier 3 lockdown (Image: Getty)

The PM said he wanted to avoid another national lockdown “if at all possible” amid calls for a circuit-breaker – a short, limited lockdown – across the country.

He said he disagreed with people who argued in favour of a national lockdown “instead of targeted local action”, adding: “Closing businesses in Cornwall where transmission is low will not cut transmission in Manchester.”

Mr Johnson said that while he could not “rule anything out”, he wanted to avoid a national lockdown because of “the damaging health, economic and social effects it would have”.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government chief scientific adviser, told the press conference that it is better to go “hard and fast” with measures to clamp down on the virus.

“From a purely epidemiological point of view, it is important to go quite fast on this.

“it is important to make sure that you work hard enough to get the R [virus reproduction rate] below one. The sooner you do that, the more you get this under control,” he said.

Asked whether people would die as a result of the row between Downing Street and regional officials about local lockdowns, Sir Patrick said: “These are horrendously difficult decisions and there are harms on both sides.”

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His remarks came after the Government struck a deal with Lancashire to raise it into the toughest lockdown level.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson said further delays would cost lives (Image: Getty)

The North-west England county joins Liverpool in the top bracket; all the areas’ bars and pubs that do not serve meals must shut – plus the mixing of households indoors and in gardens is banned.

Thousands of venues were expected to be closed from midnight – although casinos, betting shops and car boot sales were given another 48 hours’ grace.

However, there was anger in Liverpool that the Merseyside city has been made to close down its gyms and leisure centres, while such venues can stay open in Lancashire. 

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock said the Government had ‘worked intensively’ with local leaders to agree the move (Image: Getty)

The Department of Health said there would be a £12million support package in Lancashire as well as more money for an economic recovery “task force” over the next six months.

Local sources claimed the aid could be worth £30million. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson hit out at the different rules: “Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool’s close,” he said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government had “worked intensively with local leaders” to agree the move. He added an “unrelenting rise in cases” in Lancashire meant “we must act now”.

Around 1.5 million people, including in Blackpool, Burnley, Preston, Blackburn, and Lancaster, will be affected by the move to Tier 3 rules.

DAILY EXPRESS OPINION: 

HOW we tackle Covid is about saving lives not playing political games.

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That is this newspaper’s advice to Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who appears to be prepared to expose his citizens to this deadly virus to make a political point.

If he refuses to take the action necessary, then the Government will be right to act without him and impose Tier 3 restrictions if that is what is needed.

Nobody is doing this for fun and sacrifices will have to be made, but Labour and Mr Burnham need to have a more grown-up attitude to what is happening.

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