Adds details on local lockdowns
LONDON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Britain put the area of Lancashire in northwest England into the highest COVID alert level on Friday, meaning it will face the toughest restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, including the closure of pubs.
Cases have surged in the region that is home to towns such as Burnley, Blackburn, Blackpool and Preston, forcing Lancashire into the very high alert level of Tier 3, along with nearby Liverpool and Merseyside.
Under terms agreed between the national government in Westminster and local officials, pubs will close unless they are selling substantial food and people have been told not to socialise with anybody indoors that they do not live with.
The change will come into force on Saturday and from Monday betting shops, casinos, bingo halls and soft play areas for children must also close.
As a second wave of the pandemic mounts, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has pursued a tiered approach to shut down local regions with surging cases, in the hope it can allow the least-affected areas to remain open to protect the economy.
That has sparked anger by some local leaders in northern England who say the government has not offered enough financial support to businesses which are having to close.
The most powerful mayor in northern England, Andy Burnham, is fighting a move to put his Greater Manchester area into the highest tier unless the government increases its financial support through the winter.
He accused Johnson's government on Thursday of sacrificing the north to protect more affluent areas in the south.
The announcement on Lancashire also sparked claims of inconsistency after gyms were told they could stay open there but not in Liverpool, prompting the local mayor to dub the situation a shambles. Gym owners have said they will go bust.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Michael Holden and Stephen Addison)
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