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‘Large gulf’ between northern leaders and Government over new Covid crackdown

Mayors and council leaders have expressed anger about the economic impact of further restrictions.

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(Peter Byrne/PA)

(Peter Byrne/PA)

(Peter Byrne/PA)

Northern leaders have expressed anger at the economic impact of further Covid restrictions in their areas as talks with the Government appeared tense.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said there was a “large gulf” in discussions about new restrictions.

He told Times Radio: “We seem to have an almost impossible task of penetrating the Westminster bubble.”

However, the Government signalled local councils would be given more control over the coronavirus test and trace programme.

This came as England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the country is at a tipping point similar to the first wave of coronavirus, but can prevent history repeating itself.

Mayors and council leaders in the North have said local economies could be “shattered” as a result of sweeping new rolling Covid enforcements set to be unveiled by Boris Johnson in the Commons on Monday.

The Prime Minister is set to detail a new three-tier system of restrictions with measures expected to force pubs and restaurants to shut across the North of England and see millions of people banned from mixing indoors and outdoors

We are getting proposed solutions with no evidence to suggest why they are needed and no evidence to suggest they would work Sir Richard Leese

Reports suggest the top tier will see no household mixing allowed either, which could affect millions of people living in areas with high Covid-19 rates across England.

Sir Richard said Manchester council’s own data showed there was “no evidence closing pubs works”.

He added: “We are still getting things coming from Government and meetings that took place on Friday – not just in Greater Manchester, across the North – where we are getting proposed solutions with no evidence to suggest why they are needed and no evidence to suggest they would work, when all the evidence we have got says they are looking in the wrong place.”

Asked by Sophy Ridge on Sky News if local leaders would be given more control over test and trace efforts, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Yes, we want to work very closely with the local mayors and with the councils.

“We are going to be ensuring that the national testing infrastructure… works in harmony with what’s happening locally.

“Because local councils and local communities are very good at contact tracing.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham called for more financial support and consultation, telling Times Radio: “If they continue with this, jobs will be lost, businesses will collapse, the fragile economies of the North will be shattered.”

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said that if the Government does not offer economic support for people and businesses during the lockdown they will have to pay instead for people to be on benefits.

He said: “If this was in London we wouldn’t be talking about this. It’s because it’s the North West they want to do it on the cheap and we are not going to allow them to do that.”

Mr Jenrick told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “You say that there’s anger in the North, but the measures that we are bringing in here are universal.

“These apply across the whole of the United Kingdom and there is nothing that we would ever do that penalises one part of the country over another.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

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(PA Graphics)

Prof Van-Tam said the best way to keep transmission low and stop the NHS being overwhelmed is for people to follow self-isolation guidance, wash their hands, wear face coverings and social distance.

He added: “Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed.

“Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, said it is “probably right” for greater restrictions to be placed on pubs.

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Now I think it is probably right to say that there are going to have to be restrictions on pubs. I think the length of time that young people spend in pubs probably is part of the driving force around this.”

But she hit out at the way the Government was handling the situation, adding: “They’re treating us with contempt, but more importantly they’re treating people across this country with contempt as well.”

PA