But the spokesperson also warned that areas that cannot get along could be forced to take action against their will.
This comes in the midst of a new argument over whether the three-tier system goes far enough. The SAGE minutes were released last night, showing Boris Johnson defied requests from his advisers to go much further – including a two-week nationwide lockdown.
The Prime Minister announced that the Liverpool city region will be the first to enter the more serious level of a new three-stage system.
Pubs will be closed in the area from tomorrow unless they can function as a restaurant. Social contact outside the home or the bubble is prohibited everywhere except in open public spaces, and residents are advised against non-essential travel.
But other regions with a spike in infections, including Greater Manchester, were not included in Tier 3 after a furious row over ‘inadequate’ wage support for workers.
Instead, they were left at level 2. In some ways, level 2 is more relaxed than previous local locks, with people now able to meet in groups of six in a private garden.
Downing Street said today that the Prime Minister wants “further Level 3 interventions” and said further discussions will take place today.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson did not specify which areas could upgrade to level 3, but said: ‘He said engagement was taking place with the leaders of the North West and North East and Yorkshire and Humber. ”
The spokesperson added: “There have been calls over the weekend and yesterday and I expect there will be a new engagement today. ”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman reiterated Boris Johnson’s threat to quash local leaders and impose a Level 3 lockdown against their will.
He said we need “the right level of action in place” to protect cancer care in the NHS, adding: “The approach we want to take is based on consensus.
“That’s why we spoke with local leaders and sought to work together to agree on packages of measures and support that they could put in place.
“As you would expect and as has been the case during the pandemic, the government has the capacity to impose measures if it considers that this is what is necessary to reduce transmission, protect the NHS and save lives.
The spokesperson said it was not “useful” to say what the deadline would be for acting unilaterally if negotiations fail.
The No10 also refused to rule out London being moved from Level 1 to Level 2 – which prohibits all social contact inside – in the coming days, a decision requested by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The spokesperson said: “There is a process to determine if further action is needed in all parts of the country. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to get ahead of this. ”
And the prime minister’s spokesperson declined to say whether 100 cases per 100,000 people were used as a threshold for areas to move from level 1 to level 2.
It came as MPs prepared to debate and vote on the three-tier package tonight in the House of Commons.
But Tory rebels have been denied the chance to vote for the 10pm bar curfew across England.
Downing Street revealed that the curfew – which SAGE advisers admitted would have a “marginal” impact – had been lumped together in a larger vote on the new lockdown system.
SAGE minutes last night revealed Boris Johnson’s advisers urged him to go much further than the three-tier system.
Three weeks ago, they recommended five major changes to “consider immediate introduction”:
- A circuit breaker (short locking period) to reduce the incidence to low levels
- Tips for working from home for anyone who can;
- Prohibit all contact within the household with members of other households (except members of a support bubble)
- Closure of all bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms and personal services (eg Hairdressers)
- All university and college education should be online unless absolutely essential
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson today refused to say that he was still “guided by science”.
Instead, the spokesperson told reporters: “You have heard me say on several occasions that the government receives advice from a wide range of scientific experts, as well as economists, but it is ultimately up to ministers to make decisions. ”
The spokesperson also twice declined to say whether Boris Johnson would aim to get the crucial R number below 1.
And this despite the PM himself admitting that he cannot relax the restrictions as long as R is not less than 1.
The spokesperson said: “The answer is that he is determined to lower the R even further. You can see that the measures we have put in place are having a significant effect on R.
“It is currently 1.1 to 1.5 against a natural rate of 3, but we have to go further.
“This is why we presented the package of measures that we announced yesterday, and this is why we are working with local authorities to discuss new level 3 interventions.”