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Manchester hit with extra Covid-19 restrictions as Johnson govt accused of ‘playing poker with people's lives’

Manchester hit with extra Covid-19 restrictions as Johnson govt accused of ‘playing poker with people's lives’
Greater Manchester will enter the highest level of England’s coronavirus restrictions from Friday, UK PM Boris Johnson has announced. The decision follows a collapse in talks between the government and local leaders on new rules.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister confirmed the move to tougher Tier 3 measures, which will mean most bars and pubs in the region will close, as will betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, and soft play areas.

It comes as the UK recorded a further 21,331 Covid-19 cases and 241 deaths on Tuesday, triple the number of coronavirus-linked fatalities reported a day earlier.

The UK’s total Covid-19 caseload now stands at 762,542, and the death toll at 43,967.

Talks between the government and Manchester’s local leaders collapsed at around 2pm on Tuesday following days of intense negotiations over the levelling of harsher restrictions, with the question of financial aid for those most affected under Tier 3 proving the main barrier to a deal.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham accused Johnson and his ministers of “walking away” from talks after they rejected his proposed £65 million funding package, a £30 million drop on the initial support figure sought for the area.

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In his comments, Johnson indicated that Greater Manchester would get £22 million in support for affected industries such as hospitality, although it’s not clear if an earlier pledge of £60 million was still in play.

Greater Manchester leaders had originally requested £90 million in funding, before revising the figure to £75 million, and then £65 million, which Burnham said was the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship.”

A passionate Burnham expressed his anger to reporters outside Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall where, in a bizarre moment, he appeared to find out about the Tier 3 restrictions and the £22 million figure from an aide’s mobile phone.

Addressing the media, he asked: “Is this a game of poker with people's lives?”

Are the government trying to put pressure on people to take as little as they can possibly get away with?

Johnson said the “generous” financial package offered to Greater Manchester was “proportionate” to the offers for the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire – the only other areas of England under Tier 3 rules.

The Liverpool City Region secured £44 million in Covid-19 Tier 3 support and Lancashire £42 million. It is therefore unclear what offer the PM was referring to with his “proportionate” comment.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, who was involved in the negotiations, blamed Burnham for the failure to reach an agreement, accusing him of being “unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control.” 

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