Andy Burnham pledges to fight PM in two weeks but admits Manchester right to go in Tier 3

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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he was “not surprised” the region would be placed into Tier 3 but said he would be making the “strongest possible arguments” for it to be moved down to Tier 2 in a fortnight if good progress continues in the fight against coronavirus. He told BBC Radio Manchester: “I’m not surprised if I’m honest: we’ve got the fastest fall going on in cases at the moment, but there is a big but I’m afraid and the big but is our cases are still quite a lot higher than the rest of England.

“So we’re coming down quickly, we’re going in the right direction, but if I just look at all the evidence and take the evidence alone, the evidence points into Tier 3.”

Mr Burnham added: “If this continues, we will be making the strongest possible arguments that Greater Manchester should be in Tier 2 in two weeks’ time.

“Two weeks today there will be a review and I hope I’m coming on the hot seat to say we are now making the strongest pitch to say we should be in Tier 2.

“Because the way things are changing, I personally think that is where we will be.”

Mr Burnham criticised the lack of business support available to Tier 3 areas.

He said: “Greater Manchester’s infection rate is reducing faster than any other part of the country but we have to accept that it is still significantly higher than the England average.

“That said, if the current rate of improvement continues, we will be asking the Government to move our city-region into Tier 2 in two weeks’ time.

“What we believe is completely wrong is the Government’s decision to provide no additional business support to areas in Tier 3 than those in Tiers 1 and 2.

“The new Tier 3 will hit the hospitality sector extremely hard. While there are grants for businesses forced to close, there is no extra support for business which supply them like security, catering and cleaning.

“This will cause real hardship for people whose jobs will be affected and risk the loss of many businesses.”

The Government published rationales for each area’s tier decision.

For Greater Manchester, the rationale stated: “While there has been continued improvement in Greater Manchester, weekly case rates remain very high, especially amongst those aged over 60, at around 260 per 100,000 people.

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“The pressure on the local NHS is decreasing in some areas but remains a concern; Manchester University hospital and Pennine Acute Trust remain under significant pressure.”

In an apparent dig at Mr Burnham, Health Secretary Matt Hancock took a swipe at local leaders who failed to cooperate with the Government on coronavirus restrictions ahead of the national closures earlier in November. 

He told the Commons on Thursday: “Unfortunately we did see the impact on cases continuing to go up in those areas where local leaders were not working alongside us and it was a sharp contrast to what happened for instance in Liverpool”

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