Coronavirus Manchester: Boris Johnson expected to enforce lockdown

Boris Johnson is poised to announced Tier Three lockdown for Greater Manchester tonight after desperate last-ditch haggling with Andy Burnham failed.

The PM and the region's mayor made a final bid to thrash out a bailout package in a phone call as a noon deadline passed. Mr Johnson is said to have upped his offer of business support from £55million to £60million. 

But Mr Burnham demanded £65million and there was no breakthrough in the row, with Government sources accusing him of 'intransigence'. 'It was his pride that got in the way of striking a deal,' one said.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that the discussions are now over. 'I'm disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government,' he said.

Mr Johnson is set to announce at a 5pm press conference that the Tier Three restrictions, which mean shutting pubs and restaurants as well as a ban on households mixing indoors, are being brought in anyway. 

Mr Burnham earlier railed at the 'provocative' noon ultimatum from the government, which came after a week of bitter wrangling over money.

However, he admitted he will have to obey the law if Mr Johnson forced the issue, saying he would put one final number to the 'penny pinching' government. The government's total package for Greater Manchester, including contact tracing support and the previous Tier Two bailout, looks likely to approach £100million. 

In a grim warning, he said: 'I would predict everybody will end up in Tier 3 at some point during the winter - what we need is a fair financial framework for Tier 3.' 

Talks over entering the top bracket are also ongoing with South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire, although announcements are not expected today.

Mr Burnham also swiped at 'selective' figures highlighted by Downing Street that suggested Greater Manchester hospitals could be overwhelmed within weeks unless tougher action is taken. He insisted intensive care bed occupancy was about normal for this time of year, at 80 per cent. 

However, fresh questions have been raised over the need for the drastic step, as official data show Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester are among the cities where cases have started to plateau after a surge at the end of September, when thousands of students and staff poured back into universities. Infection rates in all four cities have been easing for several days.  

In other coronavirus developments: 

ONS figures show the number of people dying of Covid-19 in England and Wales rose for the fifth week in a row to 438 between October 3 and 9;  Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended imposing a 'firebreak' lockdown despite case rates being below the UK average. The move meant England is the only UK nation to hold back from measures; Ireland's premier announced a six-week shutdown of the Republic with draconian curbs on movement, despite no new deaths being recorded; Nicola Sturgeon has signalled that 'circuit breaker' restrictions on households mixing are likely to stay in place for longer;  A leaked memo from No10 advisers has warned the PM can't keep saying no to Ms Sturgeon's referendum demands, urging ministers to 'placate' her with more powers;  Sir Patrick Vallance gloomily claimed that Covid-19 will probably never disappear, even with a vaccine; The UK recorded another 18,804 coronavirus cases, a 34.6 per cent rise on last Monday. The tally of deaths has gone up by 80, 60 per cent higher than a week ago;  England's deputy chief medical officer called for the nation's 10pm pub curfew to be brought forward to 6pm

The daily number of coronavirus cases, counted by the date specimens were taken, has eased in key cities over recent days

The daily number of coronavirus cases, counted by the date specimens were taken, has eased in key cities over recent days 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (right today) branded the government's ultimatum 'provocative'. Boris Johnson (left) gathered his Cabinet this morning as the coronavirus crisis continues

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance were at the Cabinet meeting in the Foreign Office this morning

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

The graph on the left shows how many Covid-19 deaths (blue dots) have been recorded across Manchester’s NHS trusts every day since the pandemic began. The three dotted lines are projections based on previous modelling from health bosses, leaked to The Guardian, which show how deaths could have sped up under different scenarios. The newspaper did not reveal what the different lines stood for but it is likely the steepest would have shown how quickly deaths would have spiralled under the worst-case scenario. The graph on the right shows the same but for how many infected patients were in intensive care. Red dots show the actual number of coronavirus patients receiving mechanical ventilation on any given day, while the three dotted lines show projections for how the numbers could grow under different growth speeds

The graph on the left shows how many Covid-19 deaths (blue dots) have been recorded across Manchester's NHS trusts every day since the pandemic began. The three dotted lines are projections based on previous modelling from health bosses, leaked to The Guardian, which show how deaths could have sped up under different scenarios. The newspaper did not reveal what the different lines stood for but it is likely the steepest would have shown how quickly deaths would have spiralled under the worst-case scenario. The graph on the right shows the same but for how many infected patients were in intensive care. Red dots show the actual number of coronavirus patients receiving mechanical ventilation on any given day, while the three dotted lines show projections for how the numbers could grow under different growth speeds

Nicola Sturgeon's two week 'circuit breaker' gets LONGER 

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scots could face tough new restrictions from next week, with the ban on household visiting to stay in place for the 'foreseeable future'.

The First Minister yesterday confirmed that a three-tier system will be announced within days.

A ban on cross-Border travel is among the curbs being considered, she said.

Following a spike in Covid-19 cases, details of a new 'strategic framework' will be published by the end of the week of a three-tier system for Scotland.

The clampdown could see on-the-spot fines for those who try to flout the rules. 

Though warning of possible further curbs, Miss Sturgeon refused to 'speculate' on what these could look like.

However, she confirmed that the ban on visiting the homes of family or friends will continue for the 'foreseeable future'.

The current controls covering pubs and restaurants are set to end on Monday.

These include the complete closure of pubs and restaurants across the Central Belt and severe restrictions in the rest of the country.

But Miss Sturgeon issued a caution about hopes of moving back towards normality. 

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The PM's spokesman revealed that Mr Johnson would be holding a press conference at 5pm alongside NHS medical director Stephen Powis and deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam. 

Talks are continuing with the North West, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber about further coronavirus restrictions.

'That is part of the effort that we are making to create the maximum possible consensus behind the more strict kinds of local intervention,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

Mr Johnson told Cabinet this morning that a package had already been 'successfully agreed' with Liverpool City Region and Lancashire on Tier Three.

He told ministers they were 'seeking to work constructively' with local leaders. 

But he raised concerns that 'cases continue to be extremely high across the region', and the 'most worrying rises' were among the over-60s.

'The PM said the stark reality is that there are now more COVID-19 patients in Greater Manchester Hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined, and the number of COVID patients will exceed the numbers from the first peak in April in 2 to 3 weeks,' the spokesman said. 

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Burnham criticised the late-night statement from Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick laying down the noon ultimatum.

The mayor - who has been demanding support equivalent to the 80 per cent wages furlough scheme for those hit by the lockdown - claimed Greater Manchester leaders had 'never been given a figure' for how much funding they would get. And he said they must have carte blanche on how the money is spent.

'What I'll be proposing to the Greater Manchester leaders when we meet this morning, quite early, is that we write to the Government setting out what we think a fair figure is for that support, given we've been under restrictions for three months and that has taken a real toll on people and businesses here,' Mr Burnham said.

'The second thing we would need is full flexibility to support the people that we think are going to need to be supported in a Tier 3 lockdown.'  

Mr Burnham said: 'I don't think the government should be enforcing or dictating in this way. We need to work together as a country and I have been offering to work with the government all year.

'Greater Manchester needs to establish a fair financial framework for Tier Three, because there is a chance all parts of England will come under Tier Three at some point over the winter and if the terms aren't right we are going to see real damage to people's lives right across the country.

'This is an issue for everyone and is not just about taking a stand for Greater Manchester.' 

Ministers gave Manchester leaders until noon today to reach an agreement on the city entering Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown, and say the government will 'intervene' if local leaders do not agree to impose the economy-crippling restrictions by the deadline. 

Up to 10million people now face living under the toughest measures this week after talks on whether the region should enter the 'very high risk' Tier 3 ended in deadlock again yesterday. 

In a statement released last night, Mr Jenrick said that he had written to local leaders giving them until midday today to reach an agreement on the introduction of Tier 3 curbs - and if they do not the Prime Minister will be forced to 'intervene'. 

But Mr Burnham and local MPs have accused the government and Health Secretary Matt Hancock's department of dubious use of 'selective statistics' to spread fear and panic about the NHS being overrun

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, blasted the Government's panic tactics, describing its attempts to 'spin hospital data' as 'counter-productive and unhelpful'.  

But business minister Nadhim Zahawi repeated the claim this morning.

Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'We have been negotiating in good faith for 10 days with Andy Burnham and other local leaders in Greater Manchester.

'By the first week of November, if the trajectory continues at the rate it is at the moment, they will run out of ICU capacity in Greater Manchester.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak intervenes at the Cabinet meeting this morning, where coronavirus lockdowns were discussed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak intervenes at the Cabinet meeting this morning, where coronavirus lockdowns were discussed

Britain recorded 18,804 Covid-19 cases and 80 deaths yesterday as infections and fatalities rise

Britain recorded 18,804 Covid-19 cases and 80 deaths yesterday as infections and fatalities rise

'That is something we should both focus on, set politics aside.'

Mr Zahawi said £22million has been offered to Greater Manchester to boost contact tracing, and made clear that more was on the table. 

'We have said to Andy and other local leaders that we will put £22 million into help for Greater Manchester, £8 per capita,' he said.

There would also be 'additional support commensurate with what we have done in Liverpool City Region and in Lancashire'.

Mr Burnham said the government was trying to respond to the pandemic 'on the cheap'.

'It does appear there's been an abrupt change since the summer, where it's the opposite now,' he said.

'We're trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap, that's how it feels.

'It's particularly relevant isn't it when you then come to a regional lockdown, because by definition these are going to be divisive, and if you don't fully fund them you are going to widen the divides in society.

'The danger for me of underfunded regional lockdown is that it becomes an act of levelling down from a government which said it would do the opposite.'

Mr Burnham said he would tell people to follow the law if tougher restrictions were imposed.

But he added: 'I do worry that if the Government is going to go down this route of imposing these punishing lockdowns on local areas, I think it will lose the public support that it will need to try and help us all as a country rise to the fight against this pandemic this winter.'

Mr Burnham's deputy has argued that Greater Manchester could be spared Tier Three lockdown if the Government spent £14million per month shielding the most vulnerable people.

The leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese claimed that would be less than a fifth of the cost of the business closures that would happen under the restrictions, enabling businesses to stay open and the majority of people to avoid tougher restrictions.  

Sir Richard said: 'Most people who test positive for the virus are not getting particularly ill. They are not the problem', pointing out that those most at risk of hospitalisation were older people and those with existing underlying conditions, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or respiratory illnesses.

'If this is the evidence, wouldn't it be much better to have an effective shielding programme for those most at risk, rather than have a blanket business closure policy of dubious efficacy?' 

The idea was backed by local Tory MPs. James Daly, the Tory MP for Bury North, said he was 'extremely sympathetic' to Sir Richard's proposal.

Chris Green, the Tory MP for Bolton West, said: 'I think this is a good direction of travel. Let's keep our hospitality running up to Christmas and support people at home if they are deemed vulnerable.'

William Wragg, the Tory MP for Hazel Grove, said: 'I think Richard Leese's proposal has merit and should be properly considered.' 

Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West and chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee, said: 'The fundamental point about Tier 3 is the proposals don't appear to have any evidential basis. 

Manchester city mayor calls for 'shielding' plan 

The Manchester city mayor has called for a 'shielding' approach to coronavirus rather than shutting down the economy. 

Sir Richard Leese said most people who test positive for the virus 'are not getting particularly ill' but the problem was too many now getting ill and increasing hospital admissions and numbers in intensive care.

He said the Government's 'blanket business closure policy' is questionable and instead suggested a shielding programme for those most at risk would work better.

'Most people who test positive for the virus are not getting particularly ill,' Sir Richard said in a blog post.

'They are not the problem. Too many are now getting ill and the number of hospital cases is going up, as is the number of people with Covid in intensive care.

'That's the problem.'

He said medics now know the most at risk of hospital admissions: older people and people with existing underlying conditions, diabetes, obesity, high-blood pressure, other respiratory illnesses.

He added: 'If this is the evidence, wouldn't it be much better to have an effective shielding programme for those most at risk, rather than have a blanket business closure policy of dubious efficacy.

'Sadly, Government, having forced through badly thought regulations, seem unwilling to think again.' 

The idea was backed by local Tory MPs. James Daly, the Tory MP for Bury North, said he was 'extremely sympathetic' to Sir Richard's proposal.

Chris Green, the Tory MP for Bolton West, said: 'I think this is a good direction of travel. Let's keep our hospitality running up to Christmas and support people at home if they are deemed vulnerable.'

William Wragg, the Tory MP for Hazel Grove, said: 'I think Richard Leese's proposal has merit and should be properly considered.' 

Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West and chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee, said: 'The fundamental point about Tier 3 is the proposals don't appear to have any evidential basis. 

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'There is no reason to think that closing some pubs and bars would have a significant impact on the spread on the virus.'

In his letter, Mr Jenrick said: 'There are now more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester Hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined. But, unfortunately, despite recognising the gravity of the situation, local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control. 

'I have written to local leaders this evening to make clear that if we cannot reach agreement by midday tomorrow then I must advise the Prime Minister that despite our best endeavours we've been unable to reach agreement. It's not too late for local leaders to work with us to take action for the sake of the people of Greater Manchester.' 

The letter, seen by MailOnline, is offering the area an extra £22m in financial support, equivalent to just £8 a head for the 2.8m population. 

It comes as official figures show that coronavirus infections are now falling in some of England's biggest cities including Manchester, despite Mr Hancock's threats to plunge many of them into Tier 3. 

In Nottingham the rolling weekly rate of cases peaked at 1,001.2 per 100,000 people for the seven days to October 8 - the highest in England - but since then the number has been falling, currently standing at 787.6.

Manchester's current rate is 432.5, after peaking at 583.5 in the seven days to October 3, while in Sheffield it's 396.7, down from a high of 500.3 in the week ending October 7. The rate in Newcastle stands at 371.5, down from 553.8 in the same period. 

Although some of the country's major cities are seeing infections tumble, the towns and boroughs around them are starting to see the steep increases, which may explain the Government's keenness to lockdown in more areas.  

Manchester city is the only area in Greater Manchester seeing daily infections drop, but outbreaks in Trafford, Stockport and Oldham have also stabilised, Public Health England figures. And the rate at which cases are rising in the other nine boroughs has began to decelerate. 

For example, Bury was reporting an average 108 cases per day by October 12, up from 97 daily cases the week prior, an increase of 11 per cent. This is down significantly from the rise between September 28 and October 5, when daily cases jumped 33 per cent from 73 to 97.

A similar trend has played out in the other boroughs. In Wigan, the rolling seven day average number of daily cases is 205 - which is up nine per cent compared the seven days prior. For comparison, this figure almost doubled from September 28, when it was 99.3, to October 5's 188.

Rochdale's is currently recording 149 cases per day, up by 16 per cent the week before, when it was 128. The week-on-week rise then was much smaller than the increase between September 28 and October 5, when daily cases jumped 59 per cent from 86 to 128. 

Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham are also being closely monitored and could be put into the higher level of restrictions.

If that happened it would see a further 13.1 million placed under the most restrictive coronavirus rules. 

No10 has tried bouncing Andy Burnham into accepting curbs which would crash Manchester's economy by warning that the region's intensive care beds could be overrun by mid-November. 

So far only Merseyside and Lancashire are in Tier 3, which requires the closure of pubs and other venues that public health officials claim contribute most to the spread of Covid-19. 

A further 5.3 million in Scotland and Northern Ireland are already under even more draconian restrictions, while 3.1 million in Wales will be placed under full lockdown from Friday night.   

In a joint statement, Mr Burnham and Sir Richard said they still hoped for a 'positive outcome'. But at the same time they made clear their determination to hold out for a financial support package.

They said it was 'surprising and disappointing' that an earlier offer of a hardship fund to top up furlough payments and support the self-employed had bee taken 'off the table' by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

'This evening we have written to the Prime Minister reiterating our willingness to continue to work towards an agreement but reminding him that Greater Manchester has been in Tier 2 style restrictions for almost three months, and that this has taken a toll on people and businesses here,' they said.

'With this in mind, we do not believe it is in any way unreasonable for us to require better protection for our lowest-paid residents.' 

The Prime Minister had previously said he wanted to gain the 'consensus' of local leaders before moving them into Tier 3.

Ministers fear public confidence in restrictions will be damaged if they do not get their support.

But after more than a week of talks, Whitehall sources last night indicated that the PM felt he had no choice but to take action in Greater Manchester to tackle the 'health emergency' there.

Mr Jenrick yesterday held 'final discussions' with local leaders, which ended in acrimony.

In a gloomy statement, a Government spokesman described the talks as 'disappointing', adding: 'This is particularly concerning against the backdrop of rising cases and hospitalisations in Greater Manchester. We are carefully considering next steps.'

Covid-19 will probably NEVER go away even with a vaccine, warns Patrick Vallance in another gloomy prediction 

Coronavirus will probably never disappear and a vaccine won't stop it completely, according to Sir Patrick Vallance.

The chief scientific adviser, speaking to members of the House of Lords , said he thought the virus will one day become like flu and cause outbreaks each year.

He said ministers and experts should stop 'over-promising' and be realistic about the prospects of a vaccine and the likely timeline of one.

It is not likely that a jab will be completed before spring, Sir Patrick said, echoing his earlier warnings and those of his colleague Professor Chris Whitty that the Covid-19 fight will be a long one.

In the same meeting, Sir Patrick said he still believes a flu pandemic is the biggest threat to the UK and that his office has set up a second system in case there is another crisis before the coronavirus epidemic comes to an end.  

'I think it's unlikely that we will end up with a truly sterilising vaccine – i.e. something that completely stops infection – and it's likely that the disease will circulate and be endemic,' Sir Patrick said in a meeting of the Lords' National Security Strategy Committee this afternoon.

'That's my best assessment and I think that's the view of many people on SAGE that that's a likely outcome.

'Clearly, as management becomes better, as you get vaccination which will decrease the chance of infection and the severity of disease, or whatever the profile of the vaccines are, this then starts to look more like annual flu than anything else.

'That may be the direction we end up going in.'

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Projections produced by the Government yesterday suggested Greater Manchester's hospitals risked being overwhelmed. 

'Cases in Greater Manchester continue to rise,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said. 'Hospital admissions in Greater Manchester are doubling every nine days.'

The PM's spokesman said that in the 'best case scenario' modelled by Government scientists, all free intensive care capacity would be used by October 28 and would pass the peak of the first wave by November 2.

The projections suggest Covid patients would take up the entire current intensive care capacity by November 8 and the entire surge capacity by November 12.

However, No 10 acknowledged that the figures do not include capacity in Nightingale hospitals.  

In a round of interviews, Mr Jenrick said: 'I do think it is

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