LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce new ways to deal with the growing coronavirus crisis on Monday, to move more actively with local leaders from England’s worst-affected areas.
As Johnson is reluctant to repeat a national ban that will continue to hurt the struggling economy, the government is trying to curb the growing number of cases, as well as growing anger, in the northern and central parts of England.
Robert Jenrick, Britain’s housing minister, declined to comment on Sunday on the steps Johnson will announce, but suggested that more work be done with local leaders.
“In addition to the simple rules that apply across the country, we are drafting a framework for those areas where the virus is most prevalent,” Jenrick told.
“We want a strong and effective relationship now between the central and local governments,” he said, “so it is only right that we take action in those communities and build roads by meeting people who know those areas better.”
Jenrick said local leaders would be more involved in tracking communications after the tightness of the British inspection and tracking system had been questioned several times, and that there would be more guidance on the trip.
The government, local media said, may have introduced three programs to try to simplify the rules and messages, with opposition parties and some members of the ruling Conservative Party saying it was too confusing and potentially contributing to rising cases.
But the government may need to do more to quell growing tensions in northern England, where some areas have been severely restricted for weeks.
But local leaders say there is a “gap” with the government over the best steps forward after complaining months have been left of decision-making by what some call an over-the-top strategy.
“We certainly did not agree with them. I think there is probably a huge gap right now between us and the government, ”Richard Leese, Manchester City Council leader, told Times Radio.
Workers also called on the government to provide additional financial support if businesses are told to close, and that the opposition will work to provide another package to the one announced by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday.
“What we really want … is for the government to come forward with financial support that enables people to comply with health limits,” Lisa Nandy, Labor head of foreign policy, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.