Boris Johnson has been warned he may cause a fracturing of national unity in the UK if he fails to listen to regional concerns about the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham spoke out as a poll reported public support for the British government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis had slipped.

Mr Burnham said the UK Prime Minister did not inform civic leaders of his easing of restrictions in advance and said the dropping of the ‘Stay at Home’ message felt “premature”.

While cases of coronavirus have been easing in the South East, Mr Burnham believed the loosening of restrictions came too quickly for the North.

“On the eve of a new working week, the PM was on TV ‘actively encouraging’ a return to work. Even though that would clearly put more cars on roads and people on trams, no-one in Government thought it important to tell the cities that would have to cope with that,” Mr Burnham wrote in The Observer.

“The surprisingly permissive package might well be right for the South East, given the fall in cases there. But my gut feeling told me it was too soon for the North.

“Certainly, the abrupt dropping of the clear ‘stay at home’ message felt premature.

“If the Government carries on in the same vein, expect to see an even greater fracturing of national unity. Different places will adopt their own messaging and policies.”

Meanwhile, only 39% of people approve of the UK Government’s response – down from 48% a week ago – according to an Opinium survey of 2,005 adults on Wednesday and Thursday.

Those saying they disapproved rose from 36% to 42%.

Coronavirus confirmed cases

Elsewhere, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has appealed to teaching unions to work with the British Government to find “practical solutions” to enable schools in England to begin re-opening.

His plea came amid fears that plans to start the phased re-opening of primary schools from next month, as part of the easing of the coronavirus lockdown in the country, may be scuppered if the unions refuse to co-operate.

Talks on Friday between union representatives and government scientific advisers, intended to provide assurance about the UK Government’s proposals to enable children to return safely, ended with union leaders saying it had raised more questions than answers.

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