(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. announced tougher coronavirus restrictions for South Yorkshire on Wednesday as arguments raged over support for businesses and workers affected by curbs being imposed across the north of England.
Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said pubs and bars will be closed from 00:01 a.m. on Saturday, as the area becomes the fourth region subjected to the government’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
It comes a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed similar restrictions on Greater Manchester following the breakdown of talks with local leaders over the scale of financial assistance.
“We all recognize the gravity of the situation and have taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods, and protect our National Health Service,” Jarvis, who is also a Labour member of Parliament, said in a statement. “The number of people with Covid in our hospitals has doubled over the last 10 days, with no signs this will relent over the coming weeks. Inaction was not an option.”
Official figures released Tuesday showed a further 241 people who tested positive for coronavirus died across the U.K., with 21,331 new cases reported. That brings total confirmed deaths nationwide to 43,967.
The resurgent virus is exposing tensions in the government’s strategy of seeking to stamp out local outbreaks with the buy-in of local leaders. The devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced nationwide lockdowns, while in England, the Greater Manchester row highlighted how far Britain’s response to the pandemic has fractured along political and geographical lines.
In a news conference Tuesday, Johnson said the U.K. is on a “narrow path” and he did not want to impose an England-wide lockdown “unless we absolutely have to.”
The Manchester restrictions, which take effect from Friday, were imposed after the government spent 11 days bartering with local leaders led by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham over the scale of assistance for low-paid workers and businesses forced to shut their doors.
Burnham warned “poverty, homelessness and hardship” will rise because ministers had not agreed to provide 65 million pounds ($85 million) -- the “bare minimum” he said is needed to protect businesses. He said the government had offered a maximum of 60 million pounds.
South Yorkshire agreed funding with the government worth a total of 41 million pounds, including 30 million pounds for businesses and 11 million pounds for local authorities to support public health measures such as contact tracing.
The main opposition Labour Party will force a symbolic vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday calling on the government to deliver “a fair deal” for communities facing the highest level of restrictions.
Under the top tier of restrictions, pubs and bars not serving meals have to close, households can’t mix indoors or in most outdoors settings, and people are strongly advised not to travel in or out of the area.
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