LEADERS in Greater Manchester remain firm in their belief that the region should not receive extra coronavirus restrictions, whilst officials in Lancashire say stricter measures are "inevitable" – despite the county having a lower rate of infection.

Areas across the North West face being plunged into harsher lockdown measures under the government's new coronavirus alert system.

Currently, the Liverpool City Region is the only area of England to be given the strictest set of rules, but Government health officials are expected to continue discussions with councillors in Greater Manchester and Lancashire over moving the areas into Tier 3 restrictions.

Leaders in each area are divided on the proposal, with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the ten leaders issuing a joint statement, insisting the area should remain in Tier 2, as the evidence did not support extra rules.

They said: “Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust seven-day rolling average Covid patients in beds is at around the 225 mark and in Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust it’s at the 100 mark.

“Second, the financial package accompanying Tier 3 is nowhere near sufficient to prevent severe hardship, widespread job losses and business failure.

"We therefore reject the Government’s current drive to pile pressure on places to enter Tier 3, and we take particular issue with the offer of local control of Test and Trace as an incentive to do so.

"This should be on offer to all local areas and is more likely to be effective in those areas in Tiers 1 and 2."

Currently, the Liverpool City Region has seen 488 cases per 100,000 people, whilst Greater Manchester's rate is sitting at 357.6, and Lancashire's at 310.7.

Leaders have also said they would prefer a national circuit-break if cases continued to rise, and more economic support was not provided.

The statement continued: "“If the Government pursues its current strategy, we believe it will leave large parts of the north of England trapped in Tier 3 for much of the winter with all the damage that will do.

"If cases continue to rise as predicted, and the Government continues to refuse to provide the substantial economic support that Tier 3 areas will need, then a number of Leaders in Greater Manchester believe a national circuit break, with the required financial support would be a preferable option.

"This would create the conditions for a re-set of the Test and Trace service into a more locally-controlled operation which, with cases driven down to a lower level, would be more likely to succeed."

However, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver warned hospital admissions would reach the level they were at the height of the first wave within three weeks if measures were not brought in.

Mr Driver told BBC Breakfast he did not feel the county was being “railroaded” into the introduction of stricter measures but more resources would be needed to deal with the economic impact.

He said: “With the high rates of infection in most parts of the county area it’s inevitable we’re going to move into Tier 3.

“It’s really a question of when and how, and we’re working with Government trying to put together a package of measures that will mitigate the inevitable impact on that particular sector of the economy.”

Property adviser Altus Group said 3,096 pubs and bars, 375 betting shops, 475 gyms and 15 casinos would close if Greater Manchester and Lancashire were subject to the stricter restrictions.

He added: “If we don’t take proper measures now, within three weeks the hospitals in Lancashire will be having the same admissions for Covid as they did at the height of the first wave.

“If we don’t take those measures now, in another couple of weeks after that we could be double the admissions that were occurring at the height of the peak in March and April, so we really do have to take measures.

“Just closing the pubs and bars will not in itself bring the virus infection rate down.”

Property adviser Altus Group said 3,096 pubs and bars, 375 betting shops, 475 gyms and 15 casinos would close if Greater Manchester and Lancashire were subject to the stricter restrictions.