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PM warns Manchester leaders he will intervene if they won’t agree to Tier 3

Written by on 16 October 2020

Greater Manchester residents will have Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions imposed on them even if local leaders do not agree, Boris Johnson has warned.

Speaking at a news conference from Downing Street, flanked by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and government medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins, the prime minister said: “If agreement cannot be reached, I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester residents.”

He added the situation there was “grave” and “worsens with each passing day”, and that action was needed to avoid more people going into intensive care and dying.

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Local leaders are trying to get more support for firms and workers

It comes as Lancashire prepares to follow the Liverpool City Region into Tier 3 – the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions in England – from midnight tonight.

Manchester’s leaders have been resisting following suit until a stronger support package to protect workers and businesses is pledged by the government.

Which tier is my area - and what are the new rules of the three-tier lockdown?

Which tier is my area – and what are the new rules of the three-tier lockdown?

Talks have been going on for several days but no agreement has yet been reached, after acrimony broke out on Thursday.

In a plea to Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Johnson told him to “reconsider and engage constructively” as “time is of the essence”.

More from Boris Johnson

Pedestrians wear face-masks in Manchester on October 16, 2020, as the number of cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 rises. - The government on Thursday announced more stringent measures but as ministers tightened the screw on social interaction to cut close-contact transmission, they sparked a furious row with leaders in northwest England, where infection rates are highest. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of being "willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try and save them elsewhere". (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
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The PM said he would act to save people’s lives

However, Sir Patrick said “baseline” Tier 3 measures “almost certainly aren’t enough” to get infection numbers down.

And asked when asked by Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates if people would die as a result of the row between Downing Street and Manchester leaders, he said: “These are horrendously difficult decisions and there are harms on both sides, as it’s been pointed out previously.

“From a purely epidemiological point of view, it is important to go quite fast on this, it’s important to make sure that you go hard enough to get the R below 1 and the sooner you do that, the sooner you get this under control.”

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‘Draconian measures’ will be implemented if necessary

Coronavirus: How many have tested positive where you live?

Coronavirus: How many have tested positive where you live?

The number of people in intensive care beds in Greater Manchester is already 40% over what it was during the first peak in spring and the case rate has risen to 224 per 100,000 among the over 60s, the prime minister said.

“The national government must reserve the right to step in and do what is necessary,” Mr Johnson added.

A COVID warning sign in Liverpool, which has been placed under the highest Tier 3 restrictions
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Sir Patrick said baseline Tier 3 measures ‘almost certainly aren’t enough’

He also laid out plans to distribute and trial rapid testing to “help stop the virus’ vicious spread”.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson earlier branded the changes to the three-tier system unveiled on Monday by Mr Johnson an “inconsistent mess”.

'Tier 3 would be a death warrant': Mancunians defiant as new rules loom

‘Tier 3 would be a death warrant’: Mancunians defiant as new rules loom

Meanwhile, the R rate – the average number of people someone with coronavirus passes it on to – has risen slightly from between 1.2-1.5 to 1.3-1.5 this week.

SAGE, the government’s group of scientific advisers, said the estimate was “reliable” and there is “still widespread growth of the epidemic across the country”.