Hospitals in Greater Manchester are running out of hospital beds, according to leaked NHS documents, as political wrangling over whether or not the area will enter Tier 3 restrictions continue.
The NHS in a statement said it was monitoring the situation “very, very closely” and added it is “not unusual for 80% to 85% of ICU beds to be in use at this time of year”.
The development comes amid a battle between the government and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over Covid restrictions.
The area may be offered millions in extra funding to accept the strictest coronavirus restrictions as Boris Johnson seeks to prevent a lockdown revolt and Burnham presses for a Commons vote to break the “impasse”.
The Labour mayor was said to have had a “constructive” conversation with the prime minister’s chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister, over the weekend and further talks have been scheduled for Monday.
Senior Conservatives, including the influential chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, have backed the Greater Manchester mayor in resisting Tier 3 for the region.
Burnham called for MPs to help workers and businesses hit with the harshest restrictions by having an urgent debate this week, warning “this is not just a Greater Manchester issue”, PA Media reports.
No 10 did not comment on reports in various newspapers that Johnson could offer the region tens of millions of pounds to accept the lockdown, but on Monday morning communities secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: “I have offered, in discussions that we have had, a range of different things that local leaders would like.
“Whether that’s greater control over local tracing, whether it is use of the armed forces, whether it is more resources for local councils.
“We want to put together a package of measures that will actually work.”
Jenrick also expressed frustration about the amount of time spent on discussions, telling Sky News “they have probably gone on too long now”.
He added: “There has been a sense of uncertainty, which isn’t helpful to people living in Greater Manchester.
“More importantly, the number of cases is rising and the pressure on some of the hospitals in Greater Manchester is there for all to see.
“So, I think further measures and action now is important.”
Business leaders have called for greater support from the Treasury for firms forced to close in Tier 3, as well as those in Tier 2 which face “dramatically” hampered finances.
The British Chambers of Commerce told the PM that any new lockdown restrictions must come with “truly commensurate” financial support or risk “catastrophic economic consequences”.
A further 16,982 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK were announced on Sunday and an extra 67 deaths of people who had tested positive in the past 28 days, according to government figures, which put the total at 43,646.