By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a Tuesday press conference that he would unilaterally move Greater Manchester into the highest level of novel coronavirus restrictions after failing to reach an agreement with local officials.
Greater Manchester will move into Tier 3 restrictions, banning indoor household gatherings and closing pubs and bars unless they serve substantial meals. The fresh measures will also strictly advise against traveling into and out of the region when they come into force at one minute past midnight on Friday.
They will be accompanied by an economic support package of £22 million ($28 million) for Greater Manchester, infuriating local leaders, including the Mayor Andy Burnham, as well as members of parliament and other elected officials, who view this sum as insufficient.
Johnson said he had made a "generous" offer to Greater Manchester, proportionate to that offered to Merseyside -- a region that includes Liverpool -- and Lancashire, which are already in Tier 3, but that local leaders refused it.
According to earlier reports, local leaders in Greater Manchester had originally asked for £90 million in economic aid, later reduced to £65 million, but the government offered only £60 million.
Johnson refused to clarify if the £60 million his government reportedly offered Greater Manchester was still on the table.
"This offer was proportionate to the support we have given Merseyside and Lancashire, but the mayor didn't accept this unfortunately," Johnson said.
"Despite the failure to reach an agreement, I hope the mayor and council leaders in Greater Manchester will now work with us to implement these measures," he said. "We would have a better chance of defeating the virus if we work together."
Speaking at his own press conference before Johnson's, Mayor Burnham accused the government of "walking away" from the talks.
"At no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come," Burnham said.
He found out live on air about the £22 million the government said Greater Manchester would receive.
With local Mancunians booing and shouting “disgraceful” in the background, he said: "It's brutal to be honest. This is no way to run the country in a national crisis, it isn't.
"This is not right, they should not be doing this. Grinding people down trying to accept the least they can get away with.
"£22 million to fight the situation that we are in is frankly disgraceful."
Both "£22m" and "KingOfTheNorth" were trending on Twitter after the announcement.
Meanwhile, government data published on Tuesday showed that 21,331 people tested positive for coronavirus across the UK over the past 24 hours -- the highest daily total since the pandemic began. This brings the total number of cases to 762,542.
The data also showed that a further 241 people died, the highest daily numbers of deaths since June 5, bringing the total to 43,967.