UK PM warns Manchester faces lockdown, despite opposition

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened Friday to impose new coronavirus restrictions on Manchester after a stand-off with the city’s leaders risked undermining his strategy to drive down infections.

Johnson imposed further restrictions on about 1.5 million people in nearby Lancashire on Friday in a bid to bring down spiralling transmission rates in northwest England.

But Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is fighting against plans for his city to also be moved into “Tier 3” — the highest level of regional lockdown under Johnson’s localised strategy — without extra funding from central government.

The stand-off comes as different parts of the UK become increasingly subject to varying degrees of restrictions, particularly in devolved Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Johnson admitted he had “not yet reached agreement with Greater Manchester”, adding he understood the reluctance for deeper lockdown, calling it “far from a pain-free course of action”.

“But I must stress the situation in Greater Manchester is grave and it worsens with each passing day,” he said at his weekly coronavirus briefing.

“If agreement cannot be reached, I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester’s residents,” he added.

Burnham on Thursday accused Johnson of “asking us to gamble our residents’ jobs, homes and businesses and a large chunk of our economy on a strategy that their own experts tell them might not work”. (AFP)