Manchester leaders 'unanimously oppose' tier three covid restrictions

15 October 2020, 07:45 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 17:53

By Maddie Goodfellow

Andy Burnham said on Thursday leaders in Greater Manchester have "unanimously opposed" putting the region in the highest tier of restrictions, saying the plans are "flawed and unfair".

Manchester Mayor Mr Burnham said he is rejecting the tier 3 proposals, calling them "an experimental regional lockdown strategy".

Mr Burnham also accused ministers of treating the region as a "sacrificial lamb".

Read more: London to enter Tier 2 of covid restrictions from midnight on Friday

Explained: When does London's tier two lockdown start and what are the new restrictions?

He told a press briefing: "I've said it may be that we need to look at a national circuit-break as preferable to this unfunded, risky regional lockdown strategy.

"We have to protect the health of the nation but let's do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn't make sense in the real world."

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Mr Burnham said the Government was "treating us with contempt", adding: "People are fed up of being treated in this way, the North is fed up of being pushed around.

"We aren't going to be pushed around any more."

He argued it would "cost less to support people now rather than let businesses go to the wall" and damage the speed of the post-Covid economic recovery.

However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock responded by saying local leaders in Greater Manchester should put "party politics aside" and agree extra measures for the area to control the virus.

Mr Hancock said he believes the situation is "severe" in region, stating "we must act".

Mr Burnham has been resisting pressure to follow the Liverpool City Region into the Tier 3 restrictions
Mr Burnham has been resisting pressure to follow the Liverpool City Region into the Tier 3 restrictions. Picture: PA

Mr Burnham has been resisting pressure to follow the Liverpool City Region into the Tier 3 restrictions - which would see bars, gyms and betting shops forced to close - despite soaring infection rates.

However following a briefing with the deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries on Wednesday, he said he expected to have a further meeting with Boris Johnson's team on Thursday.

Read more: Wales to ban travel from UK Covid-19 hotspots

The move came amid reports the Government's Joint Biosecurity Centre had recommended most of the North West and North East of England, as well as parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands, should be moved into Tier 3.

Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central said it had "all the hallmarks of a decision having been made".

Mr Burnham reacted angrily to the reports yesterday, tweeting: "At no point during tonight's briefing was this news communicated to us. Media told first once again. Our position has not changed."

In contrast, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said he would back tighter restrictions in the capital - which was today moved to tier two controls - but called for a package of financial support for the city.

Explained: What is a tier 1 lockdown and which areas will be included in it?

Explained: What is a tier 2 lockdown and what areas will be included in it?

Explained: What is a tier 3 lockdown and what areas will be included in it?

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is braced for the toughest controls in the UK so far with pubs and restaurants set to close for four weeks from Friday and schools facing a two week shutdown.

And the UK Government described a decision by the Welsh Government to ban travel to the country from other parts of the UK with high levels of coronavirus infection as "disappointing".

Mr Johnson remains desperate to avoid any form of national lockdown - despite demands from Labour for a temporary "circuit-breaker" to break the train of transmission and stem the spread of the disease.

In the Commons on Wednesday, he urged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to use his influence with Labour authorities in the North to agree to "stringent measures" to get the rates down.

But in an online press conference, Mr Burnham said that if Greater Manchester was placed into Tier 3 it would be "by imposition, not consent".

He warned that he could take legal actions to ensure residents were protected from the economic fallout of tougher restrictions.

Read more: 'Herd immunity here we come': Huge crowd in Liverpool ahead of new Covid rules

Read more: Liverpool Covid inpatients to surpass first peak within ten days

"We are law abiding people, we would respect the law of the land," he said.

"But we would consider other routes, legal routes, where we could protect our many thousands of residents who are going to be left in severe hardship in the run up to Christmas."

Meanwhile, the government's former homelessness adviser Dame Louise Casey has warned the offer of two-thirds pay for workers whose employers close would not "cut it".

Under the furlough scheme, the government paid 80% of workers' wages until August, with the scheme winding down until it is closed at the end of the month.

A separate Job Support Scheme, which launches on November 1 and lasts for six months, will involve the Government paying two thirds of each employee's salary - up to a maximum of £2,100 a month - if their employer is legally required to close their premises because of restrictions.

Meanwhile Sir Keir is continuing to press for national "circuit-breaker" following the disclosure that the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies had recommended such a move last month.

He was bolstered by a YouGov poll showing 68% of adults in Great Britain would support a two-week shutdown to coincide with the October half term break.

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