Greater Manchester Covid restrictions delay ‘puts lives at risk’

Published:Monday, 19 Oct 2020 07:10

Greater Manchester Covid restrictions delay ‘puts lives at risk’

Further delays to a decision on Greater Manchester’s Covid restrictions will “put people’s lives at risk”, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick said he hoped he could reach an agreement with the region’s MPs, and its mayor Andy Burnham, “in the next day or two”.

Local leaders want better financial support before they agree to being moved up to the top tier of rules.

Talks will continue later after a weekend of discussions.

Mr Jenrick indicated that “tens of millions” of pounds given to the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire – the two parts of England already in tier three – could be on offer for Greater Manchester.

He told BBC Breakfast the Greater Manchester talks had gone on “too long” as coronavirus case numbers remain “seriously high”.

“Delay I’m afraid will only make the situation worse, will only put people’s lives at risk, and will only make the economic fallout for the city worse in the long term,” he added.

e Welsh Government is due to announce whether it will introduce a two-week national lockdown.

The cabinet will meet this morning to make a final decision over a so-called circuit-breaker, after considering advice from experts, with First Minister Mark Drakeford expected to make an announcement shortly after midday.

A further 16,982 people tested positive for the virus in the UK as of Sunday, figures from the Department of Health showed, with a further 67 deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive test.

The dispute over which tier of restrictions Greater Manchester should be in intensified on Friday after Boris Johnson said that he might “need to intervene” if local leaders did not accept a move to tier three curbs.

But Mr Burnham wants the government to re-introduce the 80% furlough scheme used previously in the pandemic to support the low paid affected by tier three closures.

He said businesses that will be closed under tier three – pubs, bookies and gyms – “are places where people are on low wages”.

Mr Burnham said he had a “constructive call” with the PM’s team on Sunday.

BBC deputy political editor Vicki Young said Treasury sources insisted there would not be a more generous offer on wages but pointed to other financial support packages agreed with Liverpool and Lancashire.

On Sunday, Liverpool City Region’s metro mayor Steve Rotherham said his area would receive an additional £44m and a similar package worth £42m was given to local leaders in Lancashire last week.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said a package of around £75m for Greater Manchester would be roughly equivalent to the packages agreed for Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, based on population size.

In a letter to the PM and other party leaders released before he had spoken to Mr Johnson’s chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister on Sunday, Mr Burnham said Parliament should hold an urgent debate to end the deadlock.