Boris Johnson risked a war with political leaders in the north as he imposed a regional lockdown on Greater Manchester.
The prime minister said the region would move to the highest tier of restrictions just after midnight on Friday despite opposition from local leaders after marathon negotiations on a financial package of support failed to broker a deal.
“Unfortunately agreement wasn’t reached and I do regret this,” Johnson said at a press conference on Tuesday night. “We would have a better chance of defeating the virus if we work together.”
He added: “I know that these restrictions are tough, both on businesses and individuals, and believe me, no-one wants to be putting these things into effect.”
Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham argued the restrictions, which include closing pubs that do not serve meals, would be ineffective in reducing cases and would strangle local economies.
He demanded a short national lockdown and more support for businesses and workers hit with restrictions.
But Johnson said the demands from Manchester were “out of kilter” with the financial support offered to other regions that have been put into the highest tier. But in a press conference earlier, Burnham argued the government was “grinding people down, trying to accept the least that they can get away with.”
Government officials said without action the NHS in Manchester risked becoming overwhelmed with increasing coronavirus cases.