BORIS Johnson is facing growing calls from his own MPs for a national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown – as Mancunians hit pubs and bars after local leaders rejected calls for new Tier 3 measures in the city.
The PM has faced a battle with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over additional shutdowns in the area – and used his press conference last night to warn that he could force the region into the strictest lockdown measures if needed.
During his national address, he also battled back against calls for a second UK-wide lockdown – despite increasing pressure from all sides.
Greater Manchester has so far resisted government pressure to agree to a Tier 3 lockdown which would see pubs and bars close.
Last night, pubs and bars across Manchester city centre welcomed revellers celebrating nightspots remaining open, with warnings the PM could take matters into his own hands before Monday.
It is understood the PM only stepped back from enforcing Tier 3 due to concerns the measures wouldn’t be policed without agreement from local leaders.
It comes as:
Police were seen patrolling the streets as revellers in groups of no more than six enjoyed what could be one of the last nights out of the year.
Friends were pictured heading between bars as they make the most of the current laws before venues closed for the 10pm curfew.
He said jobs in the North were being “sacrificed to save them elsewhere”.
But at the Downing Street conference last night, Mr Johnson launched a blistering attack on the mayor – and said Manchester’s hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients.
“I cannot stress enough – time is of the essence,” he said.
“Each day that passes before action is taken means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care, and tragically more people will die.
“Of course if agreement cannot be reached, I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and to save the lives of Manchester’s residents.”
He also hit out at Labour politicians demanding a circuit-breaker lockdown – saying “closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low, will not cut transmission in Manchester”.
He plans to continue with his targeted programme of localised shutdowns – which currently mean that one in every two people living in England is now faced with tighter measures under tiers two and three.
But today, one of the PM’s senior backbenchers and a top Government scientist joined calls for a short national lockdown.
Now former health secretary Jeremy Hunt indicated that he backs a national shutdown.
The Tory MP said: “I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown, so I have a lot of sympathy with that.'”
He backed Government scientific adviser Sir John Bell, who said he sees “very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker, because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering”.
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Mr Burnham has previously said only a national lockdown is certain to work – and local shutdowns aren’t effective.
Yesterday, Mr Burnham and all 10 Greater Manchester council leaders say they are “ready to meet at any time to try to agree a way forward”.
“We firmly believe that protecting health is about more than controlling the virus and requires proper support for people whose lives would be severely affected by a tier three lockdown,” they said.
“We do not believe that the current proposals provide adequate support and that is why we await further talks with the Government.”