Boris Johnson is gathering cabinet ministers for a call as he prepares to unveil a new three-tier lockdown system.
But with the measures expected to hit the north of England hard, Downing Street faces a growing revolt among city leaders there over the levels of financial support offered to firms and workers forced to stay at home.
When it comes to “levelling up” Britain, ministers should focus on “people as well as places” in order to create “a stronger, fairer and more resilient economy”, the Covid Recovery Commission has said.
The commission, set up in July by the bosses of major firms such as Vodafone, Heathrow Airport and Shell UK, found that the pandemic is widening inequalities in the UK.
While those living in the poorest neighbourhoods are at a higher risk of dying with the virus, and to be suffering more from unemployment and worsening mental health, some of the highest levels of deprivation were found in some of the wealthiest parts of the country, according to the commission.
Meanwhile, communities secretary Robert Jenrick on Sunday defended the government’s decision not to give out any further financial support to workers and firms hit by new lockdowns because “the national debt is rising”.
It came after the mayors of Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Merseyside and Tyneside said the government’s planned support package – which covers just two-thirds of wages and only applies to some workers in specific sectors – was “insufficient” and would “level down the north of England and widen the north-south divide”.