15/10/2020 16:52 BST | Updated 15/10/2020 16:53 BST

Andy Burnham Accuses Government Of Treating Greater Manchester Like A 'Sacrificial Lamb'

The mayor says he will "stand firm" against the government's attempts to impose tier 3 lockdown restrictions.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has accused ministers of treating the region as a “sacrificial lamb”.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Burnham said he was “fighting back for fairness” and will “stand firm” against the government’s bid to place the region into a tier 3 local lockdown.

The government can still introduce tougher local restrictions if it wants to without his agreement.

Under that level, people from different households are not allowed to mix, pubs and bars not serving food are forced to close and people are told not to travel outside the area.

But ministers must work with local leaders to decide if more closures take place – for example, of all pubs, gyms and leisure centres, or casinos.

The Labour mayor said any tougher lockdown needed to be accompanied with financial support for the people and businesses affected.

Burnham said tier 3 would “sacrifice jobs and businesses” in the region “to try and save them elsewhere”.

He also claimed England’s deputy chief medical officer had told him a nationwide lockdown was the “only certain thing to work”.

“We have to protect the health of the nation but let’s do it as one nation, and not make the north of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn’t make sense in the real world,” he said.

Burnham said the government was “treating us with contempt”, adding: “People are fed up of being treated in this way, the North is fed up of being pushed around.

“We aren’t going to be pushed around any more.”

He argued it would “cost less to support people now rather than let businesses go to the wall” and damage the speed of the post-Covid economic recovery.

It came as millions more people in London and across England will be moved into tier 2 from this weekend.

The capital, along with Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will have a ban on households mixing indoors, including pubs and restaurants.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, defended the government’s decision to shun a national lockdown in England.

He told MPs on Thursday morning “local action is at the centre of our response”.

“The virus is not spread evenly. The situation is particularly severe in some parts of the country,” he said. “We know we can control the virus because we have done it before.

“We must act now. Delayed actions means more deaths from Covid. It means more non-Covid deaths. And it means more economic pain later.”

The new tiered system only came into effect on Wednesday and the decision to re-categorise areas so soon is an indication of growing concerns about the speed at which the virus is again spreading.