New restrictions and a furious political row – how the week unfolded

The PA news agency looks at the main events from a tumultuous week.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Prime Minister Boris Johnson

It was a tumultuous week which saw new coronavirus restrictions introduced in England and a bitter row erupt between Downing Street and northern leaders.

Here, the PA news agency looks at how the week unfolded.

– Monday

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam tells a briefing that while cases are rising fastest in northern England, it is of “concern” that they are “heating up” in more parts of the country.

Temporary Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate are asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if needed.

Later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson launches a three-tier system of local alert levels for England, with the Liverpool City Region placed in the most serious Very High Risk category.

Newly published documents reveal that a circuit-breaker lockdown was at the top of a shortlist of interventions recommended to the Government by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month.

– Tuesday

Merseyside leaders hit back at suggestions they “kowtowed” to the Government over the introduction of Tier 3 restrictions in the area. Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tells an online press conference: “If anyone’s unhappy about pubs and gyms closing, blame the mess the Government have made of their handling of the crisis.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says that it is inevitable the capital will pass a “trigger point” to enter the higher Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions in the coming days.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls on the Prime Minister to impose a short circuit-breaker lockdown across England to bring the coronavirus resurgence under control.

Coronavirus – Fri Oct 2, 2020
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– Wednesday

As the three-tier system comes into effect, Government health officials are expected to discuss with councillors in Greater Manchester and Lancashire whether to classify the areas as Tier 3 – the most severe.

But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham brands the Tier 3 restrictions “fundamentally flawed” and says “we won’t accept it”, later threatening legal action if the move is imposed by Whitehall despite his opposition.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster announces that pubs and restaurants will close for four weeks – with the exception of takeaways and deliveries – while schools will close on Monday for two weeks.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford sets out plans to ban travel into the country from high-risk areas of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 6pm on Friday.

– Thursday 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tells MPs that London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will move into the second tier of measures from Saturday.

Greater Manchester Mayor Mr Burnham accuses the Government of treating the North with “contempt” as a row erupts over proposed coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the area.

He also claims that England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Van-Tam told regional leaders that only a national-style lockdown was sure to have an impact on the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

– Friday 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accuses Mr Burnham of trying to “hold the Government over a barrel” by resisting tougher restrictions and urges him to “do the right thing by the people of Manchester”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says a new tiered system in Scotland will “strengthen our resilience to live with this virus” when it replaces temporary measures due to end on October 25.

Lancashire becomes the second area of England to be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions, with measures due to be introduced on Saturday.

Later, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says he had “demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool’s close”.

Mr Drakeford says the Welsh Government is “looking very carefully” at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales, with a decision due to be announced on Monday.

The Prime Minister urges leaders in Greater Manchester to “reconsider and engage constructively” over Tier 3 restrictions but says he will intervene if an agreement cannot be reached.

At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson says local measures were necessary as he sought to avoid another national lockdown but added he “cannot rule anything out”.

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