Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned local leaders in Greater Manchester he is prepared to act after they resisted moves to place the area under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.
The prime minister said he would “much rather not impose” severe measures, like those seen in Liverpool.
He added, however, that if “agreement cannot be reached I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester’s hospitals and save the lives of Manchester’s residents.”
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has warned action against coronavirus must be “fast and hard” to get the disease under control. He said: “It's important to go quite fast on this, it's important to make sure that you go hard enough to get the R below one. And the sooner you do that, the more you get this under control.”
Separately, an update on the impact of Covid-19 on hospitals in the Greater Manchester area on Friday, seen by The Independent, revealed there were 90 patients in intensive care with the virus across the region’s 12 main hospitals.
Modelling of patient demand for Manchester hospitals carried out on 6 October said under a worst case scenario there would be 87 patients in intensive care with the virus on Tuesday this week, just three short of reality on Friday.
Following that same trajectory, the region will have 232 coronavirus patients needing intensive care by the 10 November. Across all 12 hospitals there are only 271 critical care beds available.
There are 430 patients in hospitals across the region with a confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection.
The news comes as University Hospitals Birmingham, one of the largest hospital trusts in the country, revealed it would be turning non-urgent patients away from its accident and emergency departments for the first time as doctors warned the trust was “at our limits” because of rising coronavirus cases. Some patients have been transferred to other hospitals.
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was under pressure from Boris Johnson today to agree to imposing stricter rules on the city under the tier three Covid alert level which would see all pubs and bars close unless they serve ‘substantial’ meals.
Casinos, bookmakers, betting shops and soft play areas will also have to close.
One doctor working in the region told The Independent: “I can’t imagine it being worse than the peak: Easter was horrific for patients, families and staff but it is looking like Christmas is going to be worse.
“If this modelling continues to follow the trajectory we are on currently then we are going to be in dire straits on Covid alone — let alone all the cancer and routine work backlog.”
They added: “nationally there is denial [from NHS] about this because it’s not in their back yard.”
According to the situation report on Friday the region’s hospitals were expanding the numbers of patients beyond normal intensive care areas to operating theatres and recovery rooms.
Salford Royal Hospital was operating at 100 per cent capacity for intensive care, as was Stepping Hill Hospital with the Royal Bolton Hospital at 94 per cent.
In total there were 211 patients out of 253 critical care beds available on Friday.
The earlier analysis said the scenarios were indicative of “what bed demand might look like over the coming weeks” adding: “Acute beds seem reasonably safe, but ICU may start to approach capacity, especially at trust-level.”