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UK government fails to reach COVID-19 agreement with Greater Manchester

Credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Britain's government and local leaders in the northern region of Greater Manchester have failed to reach agreement on imposing stricter restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday.

Adds Greater Manchester mayor, context

LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Britain's government and local leaders in the northern region of Greater Manchester have failed to reach agreement on imposing stricter restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday.

Britain is undergoing a second wave of the virus, recording 21,331 new cases and 241 deaths on Tuesday, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is resisting pressure for a second national lockdown and is instead pursuing a strategy of imposing tighter restrictions in virus hotspots.

The plan has provoked resistance from leaders in the north of England, where the worst of the latest outbreaks are concentrated.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, had called for more financial support for the region's businesses which would be forced to shut under the government's highest tier of restrictions, but the two sides failed to reach agreement.

The government is now expected to unilaterally impose so-called tier 3 restrictions - which include the forced closure of pubs which do not serve foodand an advisory not to travel in or out of affected regions.

"I'm disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government," Jenrick said in a statement.

Burnham told a news conference in Manchester that the government had failed to meet the minimum amount needed by the region to protects its poorest, and that it was ministers who had walked away from talks.

"At no point today, where we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter, to come," Burnham said.

"It cannot be right to close people's place of work, to shut somebody's business, without giving them proper support so that they can look after themselves."

(Reporting by Michael Holden, writing by Elizabeth Piper and William James; editing by Stephen Addison and Andy Bruce)

((elizabeth.piper@thomsonreuters.com; 07979746994; Reuters Messaging: elizabeth.piper.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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