Greater Manchester’s intensive care capacity could be overwhelmed within weeks, Downing Street has said, as Wales prepares to introduce a nationwide “firebreak” lockdown.
Government officials have suggested all of the intensive care capacity in Greater Manchester could be filled with Covid-19 patients by November 12 but local leaders in the region are yet to reach an agreement about moving to harsher Tier 3 restrictions.
Talks between Whitehall figures and Greater Manchester continued on Monday and ministers are now “carefully considering next steps” after failing to strike a deal.
Describing the news as “disappointing”, a Government spokesperson said: “This is particularly concerning against the backdrop of rising cases and hospitalisations in Greater Manchester.”
Local figures including Mayor Andy Burnham have resisted moving into the higher bracket, which would result in pubs and bars being ordered to close as part of a package of strict measures.
Following the latest talks, Mr Burnham said he still hoped there could be a “positive outcome” to the discussions but said it was “surprising and disappointing” that an earlier offer of a hardship fund had been “taken off the table”.
In a joint statement with Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese, he said they had written to the Prime Minister to remind him the region had been under Tier 2 restrictions for almost three months, which had taken its toll on businesses and residents.
“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.”
They also complained that the Government had today sought to raise public concern about the NHS in Greater Manchester with the release of “selective statistics” about the occupancy rates in intensive care.
Currently only the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire are subject to the harshest restrictions, and senior Conservatives, including the influential chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, have backed the mayor in his stance.
Meanwhile, a “sharp and deep” lockdown will be introduced in Wales this week, with residents “required to stay home”.
According to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, the “firebreak” will be a “short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”.
Under the measures, from Friday at 6pm until Monday November 9, all non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close “just as they had to during the March lockdown”.
Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will also close while places of worship will be shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.
As of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 18,804 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 741,212.
Another 80 deaths within 28 days of a positive test took the UK toll up to 43,726.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the disease as being “on the offensive” as winter draws in and told the House of Commons: “The situation remains perilous.”
Addressing the Chamber on Monday afternoon, he said he was concerned about the number of cases in over 60s in some northern regions.
He told MPs: “I’m very worried that the cases per 100,000 among the over-60s is 401 in the Liverpool City Region, 241 in Lancashire and in Greater Manchester has risen over the past week from 171 to 283.”
Adding the Government is “working hard” to secure a Tier 3 deal with Greater Manchester, Mr Hancock also confirmed other areas will have talks with officials this week to discuss the possibility of Tier 3 restrictions.
He said: “Following the successful introduction of measures in Liverpool and Lancashire, talks are continuing this afternoon led by (the Communities Secretary) with Greater Manchester, and this week further discussions are planned with South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teesside.”