UK, Manchester nonetheless at odds over powerful virus restrictions

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UK, Manchester still at odds over tough virus restrictions

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street after a cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday October 20, 2020. (AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The UK government appeared ready on Tuesday to impose tough coronavirus restrictions on England's second largest city after talks with officials in Greater Manchester failed to reach an agreement on financial support for people whose livelihoods will be affected by the new measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is struggling to enforce his plan for localized restrictions on troubled regions, spoke to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham on Tuesday afternoon after a government-set noon time limit expired.

Burnham has sought more financial support for workers and businesses affected by restrictions of nearly 3 million people in its area. He said the restrictions would affect the poorest and those most in need of financial aid: "People who work in pubs, bookmakers, drive taxis, people too often forgotten by those in power."

Community secretary Robert Jenrick said "discussions went without an agreement".

"I am disappointed that the Greater Manchester Mayor, while realizing the gravity of the situation, was unwilling to take the necessary steps to control the spread of the virus in Greater Manchester and to reach an agreement with the government achieve." Jenrick tweeted.

The Prime Minister is expected to give a press conference later about the restrictions on the coronavirus.

The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks down Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday October 20, 2020. (AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Johnson's government is opposed to a recommendation from its scientific advisers to put in place a brief "breaker" lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, a three-tier system was introduced for England, with areas classified as medium, high or very high. At the top level, pubs have to close and people are not allowed to mingle with members of other households.

So far, only the Liverpool and Lancashire regions in north-west England have been rated Tier 3, the highest level.

Burnham, a member of the opposition Labor Party, said Manchester had been under some form of restriction for months, and tightening it "would certainly increase poverty, homelessness and hardship in our urban area".

"It can't be right to close people's jobs, close someone's business, without proper support," he said.

The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
A woman wearing a face mask goes for a walk in Manchester, England on Monday 19th October 2020. The UK government says discussions on implementing tighter restrictions in Greater Manchester need to close on Monday as the public health threat from rising COVID-19 infections is serious and getting worse. (Peter Byrne / PA via AP)

Burnham said he was looking for £ 90 million ($ 117 million) to help people get through the winter and was ready to accept £ 65 million. But he said the government had "moved away from the negotiations".

Authorities across the UK set new restrictions on business and social interactions as COVID-19 infections rise in all age groups, filling hospital beds and intensive care units. The UK has the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with nearly 44,000 confirmed deaths.

Under the system of the UK's decentralized government, the regional administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales control health policy in their areas and the UK government sets the rules for England.

In Scotland, pubs and other leisure facilities are closed, and sports and live events are banned in the main cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, with slightly less stringent restrictions in other locations.

  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    A man drives past anti-lockdown graffiti in Manchester, England, on Monday, October 19, 2020 as the dispute over the Greater Manchester area's coronavirus status continues. The UK government says discussions on implementing tighter restrictions in Greater Manchester need to be finalized by Monday as the public health threat from rising COVID-19 infections is serious and worsening. (Peter Byrne / PA via AP)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over strict virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London, on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over strict virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London, on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    Hospitality workers protest in Parliament Square, London, on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the level of government financial support to the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)
  • The UK and Manchester are still at odds over tough virus restrictions
    Hotel workers hit their pans to protest in Parliament Square in London on Monday 19 October 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside parliament against stricter coronavirus restrictions and the amount of financial support the government is giving the industry. (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)

Northern Ireland has closed schools for two weeks, banned most social gatherings, and closed many businesses, including bars and restaurants, for a month.

Wales has gone the furthest, announcing a two-week "fire break" ban beginning Friday that will close all non-essential businesses and ban most travel outside the home.

First Welsh Minister Mark Drakeford said he was opting for a short, sharp shock over a longer period with less stringent restrictions.

"The advice to us – due in part to the implications for people's mental health – was that if you could keep this period as short as possible it would help mitigate that impact," Drakeford told the BBC.

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U.K. and Manchester Still Divided Over Strict Virus Restrictions (2020 Oct 20)
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