Boris Johnson has delivered an ultimatum to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham – telling him to drop his demands for more support for the city or face rising deaths.
Mr Johnson said that every day Mr Burnham held out on the city entering Tier 3 “means more people will go to hospital, more people will go to intensive care and more people will die”.
Mr Burnham has not said he does not oppose entering Tier 3, but is demanding furlough support of up to 80% for workers and more support for Manchester’s ailing businesses.
The Labour mayor has said that entering into it without these measures would see the city “levelled down”.
Mr Johnson said: “On recent 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.”
Mr Johnson also repeated a threat for Ministers to overule Mr Burnham – telling a Downing Street press conference : “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.”
The PM warned local governments who may resist their demands that Downing St “must reserve the right to step in and do what is necessary.”
The PM added “while I can’t rule anything out”, he wanted to avoid a national circuit-breaker lockdown.
It came as the scientific experts on SAGE warned there was “no clear evidence” the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed in the past month.
Currently about half of England’s population are living under enhanced restrictions, with almost three million living under the tightest Tier 3 restrictions.
They said that the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission for the whole of the UK stands between 1.3 and 1.5.
Last week, the group said the R number was between 1.2 and 1.5.
But in a statement, Sage said there was continued exponential growth, transmission was “not slowing”, and added: “There is no clear evidence that the epidemic’s trajectory has changed in the past month.”
The rule of six came into force on September 14, followed a few days later by a 10pm curfew on pubs and bars and then a series of regional restrictions.
A new three-tier system placing all regions of England into medium, high and very high risk areas came into force on Wednesday.
Lancashire joined Liverpool in the highest tier on Friday – but Manchester is resisting demands it enter Tier 3 without additional financial support.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the nation was facing a “short, sharp” circuit breaker lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Drakeford said he would this coming Monday if the country would be put into a two and three week shutdown after warning around 2,500 people in the country are currently being infected every day.
He said: “A firebreak would also, however, be a short, sharp shock to all our lives. We will all have to stay at home once again, to save those lives.
“But this time, it will be for weeks and not months. We are considering a two or three-week firebreak. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be.”
On Thursday, a scientist advising Government suggested the restrictions so far had been “frankly useless”.
On Friday, new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there were an estimated average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 between October 2 and 8.
This is up 62% from an estimated 17,200 new cases per day for the period September 25 to October 1.
The ONS said cases were rising “rapidly”, with an estimated 336,500 people having coronavirus in the week to October 8, equating to around one in 160 people.
The figures represent a jump from 224,400 people in the previous week of September 25 to October 1.
The ONS has analysed more than 450,000 swabs over the last six weeks from the public, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Ruth Studley, head of analysis for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: “Our latest data shows infections continue to rise, with more than a third of a million people estimated to be infected – the highest levels we have seen since the survey began in May.
“Like previous weeks, infections continue to be highest in the north of England and among older teenagers and young adults.”
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
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