BORIS Johnson says it would not ‘make sense’ to impose a national lockdown – but a top scientific adviser says the idea had been recommended a month ago.

The Prime Minister was speaking to reporters at a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, where he urged councils and elected mayors in areas hit worst by Covid-19 to get on board with the Government’s three-tier approach to tackling the virus.

It comes as Greater Manchester is being urged to become a ‘tier three’ area by Westminster leaders – but Mayor Andy Burnham is calling for more financial support for the area, particularly in sectors hit hardest by lockdown, such as bars which would have to close.

Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think it makes sense to be locking down the whole country when there is such a big difference in the infection rate across different parts of the UK.

“It really doesn’t make sense to lock down Cornwall or North Norfolk to close down businesses there which work very hard to make themselves Covid-secure, in order to drive down transmission in parts of the north west.

“All the successful countries that have been driving down Covid epidemics across the world, whether in east Asia or Europe, have been taking this strong locally-based approach rather than imposing nationwide lockdowns.

“A local approach is the right one for us and I hope Greater Manchester will come on board, but the national Government must reserve the right to do what is necessary.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the Government to consider a two or three-week ‘circuit break’ lockdown earlier this week to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

But Sir Patrick Vallance, Government chief scientific adviser, told reporters that this plan had been proposed to the Government a month ago as a way to get cases down to a level where Test and Trace can be effective.

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He said: “We recommended in September about taking a circuit break and the idea there was that a two-week interruption would set cases back probably to the levels they were in August.

“And then at those levels, test and trace is more effective to keep control, so that was the reasoning behind that.

“Where we are now – of course, a different situation – it’s crucial that where the R is above one and the numbers are high we get the R below one for all the reasons that have been outlined, including the hospitalisations which are increasing.

“Tier three baseline conditions on their own almost certainly aren’t enough to get the R below one, but if you go up to higher levels in tier three and start adding in other areas then it should be enough to get the R below one, provided they are fully implemented and we all stick to them.”

Earlier today, the Government confirmed the national R rate had risen again, and now stands between 1.3 and 1.5.