BORIS JOHNSON has warned he will intervene and impose Tier 3 restrictions on Greater Manchester if an agreement cannot be struck.
Metro mayor Andy Burnham has so far resisted tougher restrictions, saying the government’s proposal is not guaranteed to bring the outbreak under control and trying to secure greater financial support for the region.
But the prime minister told a Downing Street press conference: ‘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.’
It comes as another 1.5 million people in England face being places under the toughest coronavirus restrictions this weekend as Lancashire moves into Tier 3.
The new restrictions, which will be reviewed every fortnight, cover all parts of the county, including: Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre.
The coronavirus rate across the whole of Lancashire is 345.1 cases per 100,000, up from 241.2 in the previous week.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said: ‘Lancashire’s leaders all agree that, as we approach winter, urgent action has to be taken now to ensure the county is not overwhelmed by the virus.
‘After major negotiations with government, we have agreed a bespoke deal for Lancashire that means our businesses and residents will receive extra support that will not be available elsewhere in the country.’
But it’s emerged that Lancashire gyms will remain open despite them being closed in Liverpool City Region — the only other area of England under Tier 3 restrictions.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said on Twitter: ‘Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool’s close.
‘Inconsistent mess, we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B.’
He ended his tweet with ‘#shambles’.
In a joint statement, Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram and leaders of the six boroughs said: ‘We simply will not accept our region being treated differently to other Tier 3 areas, without robust scientific evidence.
‘These inconsistencies in restrictions between areas with in the same tier risk undermining the new system from the beginning.’
Downing Street said it is up to regional leaders to decide whether gyms should be closed as part of Tier 3 restrictions.
Meanwhile, separate figures presented to government scientists suggested around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring daily across England, with deaths expected to hit 240 to 690 per day by October 26.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission for the whole of the UK is between 1.3 and 1.5.
Last week, the R number was between 1.2 and 1.5.
It comes as Boris Johnson said he would resist another national lockdown ‘if at all possible’ as he comes under pressure to impose a short ‘circuit-breaker’ across the country.
He said accepting increased coronavirus restrictions was the ‘right and responsible’ measure.
‘Without action there is no doubt that our NHS would soon be struggling to treat the sheer number of people seriously ill with Covid. Non-Covid treatments and surgeries would need to be cancelled to cope and many more people would die,’ he said.
‘So, taking action is the right and responsible thing to do and it is backed up by significant support for areas on very high alert.’