Andy Burnham today accused Boris Johnson of 'exaggerating' the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Greater Manchester as Michael Gove said the mayor was 'posturing' and must accept the region moving into Tier Three restrictions.
Mr Johnson said in a Downing Street press conference on Friday that 'time is of the essence' and the situation is 'grave' as he warned 'cases doubled in the last nine days'.
But Mr Burnham, who is refusing to accept new rules unless ministers bring forward a more generous package of financial support, said this morning that 'figures have been falling in Manchester itself in the last few days'.
Expert analysis published by the Sunday Telegraph suggested cases in Manchester have now decreased for nine days in a row.
Meanwhile, statistics published by Manchester City Council for the period between October 4-10 showed there were 2,484 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, giving an infection rate of 449.3 per 100,000 people.
However, in the previous seven day period there were 3,224 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis, giving an infection rate of 583.2 per 100,000.
The numbers suggest that cases have also been falling in the wider Greater Manchester region and not just in the city itself.
On October 12 there were an average of 1,563 new cases confirmed per day over the preceding seven days in the region.
But by Thursday October 15 the average had dropped to 1,076 new cases confirmed per day.
Mr Burnham remains in a tense stand off with the Government and Mr Gove claimed this morning that the mayor was guilty of 'indulging' in 'political positioning' as he urged the Labour chief to back down.
But Mr Burnham dismissed accusations of 'playing politics' as he called for an end to the 'war of words' but also left the door open to a legal challenge if ministers decide to impose the measures without his agreement.
Boris Johnson on Friday urged Mr Burnham to work with the Government but also said he retained the right to unilaterally intervene if necessary.
A move to Tier Three would see pubs and bars told to close and a strict ban on households mixing indoors.
Mr Gove stressed this morning that ministers do want to work with Mr Burnham as he warned of the consequences of a failure to act swiftly.
He told Sky News: ‘I want to reach an agreement with the political leadership in Greater Manchester.
‘I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they have indulged in and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS because an absence of action will mean… more people get infected.
‘As more people get infected that will place more pressure on the NHS and the more people sadly in intensive care beds in the North West and in Manchester who are suffering from coronavirus, the fewer intensive care beds are there for people with other serious conditions.
‘All of this is happening as we move closer to the winter and instead of press conferences and posturing what we need is action to save people’s lives.’
Labour has called for a national 'circuit breaker' lockdown but Mr Gove today categorically ruled out a shift to such a crackdown in the