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City region mayor Andy Burnham has accused the PM of treating the north like a “sacrificial lamb”.

Boris Johnson has threatened to intervene and impose the toughest Covid-19 restrictions in Manchester – despite local council leaders’ staunch opposition to the move.

The move can see the most stringent measures imposed, with pubs, gyms, casinos and leisure centres potentially in the firing line and people unable to mix with others outside their household.

Burnham said the city would not accept restrictions without a return of the 80% furlough scheme – which government wants to cut to two thirds of lost wages – and has accused Johnson of treating the north like “a sacrificial lamb”.

Tier 3 would “sacrifice jobs and businesses” in the region “to try and save them elsewhere”, Burnham said, as he threatened legal action at a town hall press conference on Thursday.

But Johnson made clear he would “intervene” if hospital admissions continued to refuse, saying intensive care admissions were set to spiral in the coming two weeks to levels not seen since the height of the first wave.

“On recent trends, in just over two weeks there will be more Covid patients in intensive care than at the peak of the first wave,” he said, “so I urge the mayor to reconsider and engage constructively.

“I cannot stress enough: time is of the essence. Each day that passes before action is taken means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care and, tragically, more people will die.

“Of course, if agreement cannot be reached I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester’s residents. But our efforts would be so much more effective if we work together.”

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