Andy Burnham accused Boris Johnson today of "exaggerating" the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Greater Manchester when Michael Gove said the mayor was "on hold" and had to accept the region moving into Tier 3 restrictions.
Mr Johnson said in a press conference on Downing Street Friday that "time is of the essence" and the situation is "grave" as he warned "cases have doubled in the past nine days".
But Mr Burnham, who refuses to accept new rules unless ministers come up with a more generous package of financial support, said this morning that "the numbers in Manchester have been falling even in the last few days".
Expert analysis published by the Sunday Telegraph found that cases in Manchester have now been falling for nine days in a row.
Statistics from Manchester City Council for the October 4-10 period showed there were 2,484 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, an infection rate of 449.3 per 100,000 people.
However, in the past seven days, there were 3,224 people with a newly confirmed diagnosis, which translates into an infection rate of 583.2 per 100,000.
The numbers suggest that cases have decreased in the Greater Manchester area as well, rather than just the city itself.
As of October 12, an average of 1,563 new cases per day were confirmed in the region for the past seven days.
However, by Thursday, October 15, the average had dropped to 1,076 new cases confirmed per day.
Mr Burnham remains in a tense conflict with the government and Mr Gove alleged this morning that the mayor was guilty of "political positioning" in calling on the Labor leader to resign.
But Mr Burnham denied accusations of "playing politics" when he called for an end to the "war of words" but also left the door open to legal challenge if ministers decide to enforce measures without his consent.
Artist Peter Barber was working on a mural in Manchester city center yesterday, showing nurse Melanie Senior after the National Portrait Gallery commissioned the mural based on a photo of Johannah Churchill
Mr Johnson on Friday called on Mr Burnham to work with the government but also said he had the right to unilaterally intervene if necessary.
A switch to Tier 3 would mean that pubs and bars would have to be closed and households should strictly forbid themselves inside.
Mr Gove stressed this morning that Ministers want to work with Mr Burnham as he warned of the consequences of failing to act quickly.
He told Sky News: "I want to reach an agreement with the political leadership in Greater Manchester.
“I want you to put some of your political stance aside for a moment, and I want you to work with us to make sure we save lives and protect the NHS because if no action is taken it means … more People get infected.
“The more people are infected, which puts more pressure on the NHS, and the more people unfortunately suffer from coronavirus in ICU beds in the northwest and Manchester, the fewer ICU beds there are for people with other serious illnesses.
"All of this happens as we approach winter and instead of press conferences and attitudes, we take action to save people's lives."
Labor has called for a national breaker lockout, but Mr Gove today categorically ruled out a shift to such an approach in the near future.
He said, “It seems like a mistake to me to impose the same level of restriction on every part of the country when we know that the disease is spreading more intensely and rapidly in some parts of the country.
"The nature of the epidemiology … is different in this wave than at the beginning of the year."
He added: "We are always looking at how the disease is spreading and we will take whatever steps are necessary to maintain public health, but … the Labor Party is currently advocating blanket restrictions across the country as well as its spread." and the nature of sickness sickness doesn't deserve that approach right now. & # 39;
Mr Burnham later denied Mr Gove's allegation that he was playing 'politics' when he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show:' This is about the health of the people of Greater Manchester.
“We were the first in the country … to accept local restrictions, and that was three months ago. For those who say we play politics, I would point them out to what proves that we don't.
“The truth is that health, protecting health, is more than controlling the virus.
"We've been under these restrictions for three months and people's mental health is pretty low now. People worry about their jobs, their children, their homes, their businesses."
"It's not about politics or money, it's about people."
He added, “What I would say to the government is that we will come together and come up with a support package that will help the people and punish an unsupported lockdown. Catching places in Tier 3 all winter is going to be really damaging to health in the broadest sense. & # 39;
Mr Burnham claimed Mr Johnson painted an inaccurate picture of the situation in Manchester during Friday afternoon's press conference.
The mayor said, “I checked the numbers this morning. There are currently around 62 people in intensive care, giving or taking in Greater Manchester.
“In April it was over 200, around 220, so we're in a different position. Yesterday there were four hospital admissions of people with Covid in hospitals in Greater Manchester.
"So it's a serious situation, but I don't think it was the situation the Prime Minister described on Friday night."
He added, “I think it was an exaggeration of the position we are in. As I just said there is of course cause for concern and we are watching the numbers very closely, but the numbers have been going down in Manchester itself for the past few days.
“In Greater Manchester, slightly increased, but certainly not doubled every nine days, so let's be careful here.
"I would certainly say this morning, let's step back a little from the war of words."
The government offers to pay two-thirds of the wages of workers affected by local third-tier lockdown restrictions. However, Mr Burnham wants the assistance level to be fixed at 80 percent, as was the case under the old vacation program.
When asked if he was still considering bringing legal action against the government, he said, “I would do anything to protect poorly paid workers who I think are very, very close to the edge now and I don't think they can survive with two thirds wages.
“The legal challenge applies to this. I think it's discriminatory for people in the lowest paying jobs to say you can have two-thirds vacation, but we paid 80 percent vacation for middle-income people earlier this year. I don't think that's fair. "