Boris Johnson has confirmed Greater Manchester will be forced into the toughest tier three restrictions from midnight Friday, after failing to reach a deal with local leaders.
All pubs and bars will be forced to close their doors for 28 days – unless they are ‘serving substantial meals’ – along with betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.
Households cannot mix indoors or in most outdoor spaces, and travel into and out of the region is strongly advised against. Greater Manchester will join the Liverpool city region and Lancashire under the highest level of the Government’s three-tier system.
The prime minister announced Greater Manchester will be awarded £22 million to support the region through the latest round of closures as part of a ‘comprehensive package of support’.
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It is a stark contrast to the ‘bare minimum’ of £65 million requested by Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham to ‘protect the poorest’. He called No 10’s package ‘brutal’, while Labour ministers called it an ‘utter disgrace’ and that they ‘have never seen anything like it’.
Johnson opened Tuesday evening’s Downing Street press briefing by defending his plans, saying countries across the world who are best fighting the pandemic ‘are adopting regional and local measures’.
‘We don’t want to go back into a national lockdown with all the economic and social damage it can do – unless we have to – we think the local action is reasonable,’ added the PM.
His announcement comes following 11 days of deadlock with Burnham, who refused to accept Downing Street’s toughest measures without a substantial financial bailout.
Burnham was given a deadline of midday today to accept the restrictions or face being forced into lockdown but talks collapsed and No 10 pushed on with their plans.
The prime minister told the press briefing: ‘Unfortunately agreement wasn’t reached and I do regret this… We would have a better chance of defeating the virus if we work together.’
‘We don’t want to do this in the way we have had to,’ he added.
In an impassioned speech this afternoon, the mayor told a press briefing: ‘At no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come.’
He vowed to ‘stand up for what is right’ and said businesses in the region were ‘on the brink of closure’, with freelancers and employees who have suffered a salary cut struggling ‘to make ends meet’.
Greater Manchester leaders requested £15 million a month to cover the 10 boroughs – amounting to £95 million by the end of the financial year.
He said they were even willing to accept £65 million as the bare minimum ‘to prevent a winter of real hardship here, that is what we believed we needed to prevent poverty, to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness.
‘Those were the figures that we had – not what we wanted – what we needed,’ he added.
During his press conference, Burnham found out that his region would be awarded £22 million and restrictions would come into force on Friday.
He said: ‘It’s brutal, to be honest. This is no way to run a country in a national crisis. It’s not right, they should not be doing this.’
It is understood the breakdown in talks today came over £5 million in support for the region, after the mayor said they were not willing to drop their numbers any further.
Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: ‘In ten years in Parliament I’ve never seen anything like this.
‘MPs are on a call with the Health Secretary being told Greater Manchester is getting only £22m while our Mayor is at a press conference being told by the media. This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful.
‘We were told £22m is for test and trace, not a single extra penny promised to help businesses and minimum wage workers.
‘The Government appears to be waging war on the people of Greater Manchester. I grew up under Thatcher but I’ve honestly never seen anything like this.’
Labour’s Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell tweeted: ‘It’s an utter disgrace that businesses and workers in GM won’t get an extra penny from government to support them in Tier 3.
‘Andy is right: it’s utter spite. The idea of all in this together has been totally shattered this week.’
The deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told the press briefing that coronavirus cases are rising among the over-60s, putting pressure on the NHS.
He said ‘heat maps’ showing the spread of the disease showed ‘very significant areas of heat’ across all ages in Greater Manchester.
‘The infections that have seeded in the younger age groups are now penetrating the older age groups,’ he said. ‘This is most concerning because it is the penetration of the disease into the older age groups that gives the NHS significant problems.’
Concerns have been mounting over Greater Manchester’s hospitals, after No 10 yesterday announced that the region is on the brink of running out of intensive care beds by the end of the month.
Hospitals in Stockport, Salford and Bolton were already at maximum capacity by Friday, with no spare beds left to cope with spiralling infection rates, reported The Guardian.
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