New three-tier Covid restrictions expected to hit North hard

A social distancing advice sign in Manchester city centre
A social distancing advice sign in Manchester city centre - (Copyright PA Wire)
7:02am, Mon 12 Oct 2020
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Pubs, gyms and casinos will be forced to close and all but essential travel to and from coronavirus hotspots banned under new measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spell out his three-tier strategy on Monday with areas in England labelled as medium, high or very high risk, which will inform the “appropriate interventions” needed in each area.

Merseyside is expected to be among the areas subjected to Tier 3 restrictions – but there is still disagreement about a financial support package for the area should harsh measures be imposed.

A statement from seven local leaders, including Metro mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, said: “We made it clear we do not feel that the Furlough scheme announced recently is adequate and that businesses in the Region especially those in the hospitality sector and those serving it will be damaged and many will suffer long term damage or close for good.

“Government made it very, very clear they would not shift and improve the scheme.”

Under the furlough scheme, the government paid 80% of workers’ wages until August, with the scheme winding down until it is closed at the end of the month.

A separate Job Support Scheme, which launches on November 1 and lasts for six months, will involve the Government paying two thirds of each employee’s salary – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month – if their employer is legally required to close their premises because of restrictions.

Mr Rotheram told Channel 4 News: “We have a huge number, a disproportionate number, working in the visitor economy who are on less than £9 an hour.

“If he (Chancellor Rishi Sunak) thinks that this is something that we will accept, well it’s not.”

According to the statement, the Government has said pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos, adult gaming centres and gyms will close, while The Sun reported overnight stays in the worst-impacted areas would also be prevented and all-but-essential travel bans put in place.

The paper said Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle may also be subject to the toughest of lockdown measures which will be implemented four weeks at a time.

Knowsley and Liverpool, two of the affected areas, are in the top three for infection rates in England – at 669.5 per 100,000 people and 598.5 respectively.

In the seven days to October 8, the areas reported nearly 4,000 new cases.

The north-west had 180 hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Friday and, as of Sunday had a total of 1,218 patients in hospital.

Cities in northern England and other areas suffering a surge in Covid-19 cases may have pubs and restaurants temporarily closed to combat the spread of the virus - (Copyright PA Wire)

Meanwhile, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord has started legal proceedings to challenge the Government’s impending lockdown of hospitality and entertainment venues.

Mr Lord said leaders had not seen “any tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure” of hospitality in the area and said lawyers had been engaged for a Judicial Review into the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the sectors.

Mr Johnson, who held a telephone conference with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday, will chair a COBR emergency committee meeting on Monday “to determine the final interventions” which he will then announce to Parliament.

MPs will be asked to debate and vote on the measures later this week.

This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus

The Prime Minister will hold a press conference in Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty later on Monday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.

“We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.

“This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus.”

Number 10 stressed the extent of discussions with local leaders over the weekend following criticism from some Northern authorities and mayors that not enough consultation had taken place since the Covid crisis began.

HEALTH Coronavirus - (Copyright PA Graphics)

Downing Street said senior Number 10 advisers and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick held discussions local authority chiefs and mayors from “the highest areas of concern”.

The local authorities have also expressed concern about the impact of harsher restrictions on their own finances, with the statement saying they are existing “hand to mouth”.

It said: “(We) are currently unable to plan for the medium or long-term.

“A clearer funding settlement must be achieved that enables us to forward plan, continue to deliver essential public services, avoid large scale redundancies for Local Authority key workers and set a budget for next year with confidence.

“Therefore, we are seeking assurance from Treasury that, in coming to that national position, no local authorities placed on Tier 3 measures will be put in a position where they are unable to balance their budget this year or cannot set a legal budget next year.

“In this respect we have agreed that a further discussion with Treasury will take place on this matter.”

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