Another chunk of England faces tight virus restrictions

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A woman walks by coronavirus related graffiti on a wall, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. The British government appeared poised Tuesday to impose strict coronavirus restrictions on England’s second-largest city after talks with officials in Greater Manchester failed to reach an agreement on financial support for people whose livelihoods will be hit by the new measures. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

LONDON (AP) — The South Yorkshire region of northern England is being placed under the country’s tightest restrictions to curb the coronavirus — joining a densely populated swathe of the country where the measures have been imposed despite protests from local politicians.

Dan Jarvis, mayor of the region’s biggest city of Sheffield, said Wednesday that the Tier 3 restrictions for about 1.4 million people will come into force on Saturday. He said local authorities had struck a deal with the British government on financial support for the area to accompany the measures.

“We all recognize the gravity of the situation and have taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods,” Jarvis said.

“The character and grit of people in South Yorkshire will be needed in abundance to help us get through what will be an incredibly challenging period.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is resisting a recommendation from its scientific advisers to have a short nationwide “circuit-breaker” lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Instead, it has adopted a three-tier system for England, with areas classed as medium, high or very high virus risk. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own measures.

In the highest-risk areas of England, pubs have to close, people are barred from mixing with members of other households and travel in and out of the area is discouraged.

The measures have caused tension between Johnson’s Conservative government and local authorities in northern England, which has the country’s highest infection rates.

The feud has reopened a longstanding rift between the north of England — whose cities are still recovering from decades of post-industrial decline — and the more affluent south. Wednesday’s announcement about South Yorkshire means 7.3 million people, or 13% of England’s population, have been placed under the toughest restrictions — all of them in the north.

On Tuesday, the government imposed Tier 3 restrictions on Greater Manchester, the U.K.’s second-biggest urban area, after failing to reach agreement with local authorities on financial support for businesses and employees affected by the lockdown.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of enforcing policies that would “increase levels of poverty, homelessness and hardship” in the region of almost 3 million people.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said Burnham had rejected an offer of 60 million pounds ($78 million) in additional funding. He said the money was still on offer.

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with almost 44,000 confirmed deaths.

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