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UK

Don't sacrifice England's north on the COVID-19 altar, mayor says

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Vincent Kompany's Testimonial - Manchester City Legends v Premier League All-Stars - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - September 11, 2019 The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham after the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

LONDON (Reuters) - The most powerful mayor in northern England said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was sacrificing jobs and livelihoods in the region to avoid a national lockdown and to protect more affluent areas in the south.

To applause from people in the centre of the city, Andy Burnham said Manchester and nearby Liverpool were being treated as canaries in the coal mine for an experimental COVID regional strategy that medical experts admit may not work.

“They are willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try and save them elsewhere,” he said, echoing the tensions that existed between London and northern cities during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure in the 1980s.

“The north is fed up of being pushed around,” he said. “This is real: The north stands on the brink of being where we were in the 1980s - just forgotten and pushed aside. But we won’t let that happen.”

Burnham said the city should not go into a more comprehensive lockdown unless London offered financial support to the thousands of businesses that would be affected. Cases have spiralled rapidly in northern England in the last 6 weeks.

Burnham added that England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, had told northern leaders that a full national lockdown was the only real solution known to work, but Burnham said Johnson was unwilling to go that far.

“They are asking us to gamble our residents’ jobs, homes and businesses, and a large chunk of our economy on a strategy that their own experts tell them might not work,” he said.

Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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