UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the ‘situation is grave’ in Greater Manchester and has urged its mayor Andy Burnham to ‘reconsider and engage constructively’ with the government.
In a televised press conference from Downing Street on Friday afternoon, Mr Johnson said that he was prepared to intervene to “protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester residents” if no agreement could be reached with local leaders.
Mr Johnson said he “completely” understands the reluctance of local leaders to move to Tier 3 restrictions, but said that the situation in Greater Manchester “worsens with each passing day”
The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and other leaders in the region have so far opposed the region being placed into tier 3 restrictions. A key sticking point in reaching an agreement has been over the financial support package that is offered with the implementation of new restrictions, however, some leaders have also expressed concerns in recent days that proposed restrictions may not be effective.
On Thursday, Mr Burnham was described by many social media users as the ‘King of the North’ after opposing the tier 3 measures.
At the start of his press conference on Friday, Mr Johnson thanked the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and local leaders in Lancashire for working with the government to implement new restrictions.
The Liverpool City region moved into the highest tier of the lockdown system on Wednesday, while London and other areas are set to see their alert levels upgraded on Saturday to the second tier, bringing tighter restrictions to millions. Lancashire is to move into the highest tier on Saturday, seeing pubs and bars that do not serve substantial food closed until further notice.
The Labour Party and a growing number of other politicians and scientists have been calling on the UK Government to implement a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown to get the virus back under control, as is happening in Northern Ireland and is being considered in Wales. The Prime Minister has said he is ruling nothing out, but that “it doesn’t make sense” to lock down areas with low infection rates.
Cases of COVID-19 have been growing rapidly in many areas of England recently, with the R number (the reproduction rate of the virus) projected between 1.3 and 1.5. Any number above 1 indicates the spread of the virus is growing and getting the R number below 1 has been described as “crucial” by the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
On Thursday, a further 138 people died from COVID-19 in the UK. In total, more than 43,000 people have died in the UK with COVID-19, while over 689,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed.