Growing revolt over new coronavirus lockdown system as Liverpool and Merseyside prepare for tier three shutdown – Evening Standard



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The Government is facing growing backlash from northern leaders as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil a new local lockdown system for England to curb rising coronavirus rates.

A three-tier system of lockdown measures will be announced by the Prime Minister on Monday, with different parts of the country split up into “medium”, “high” or “very high” local coronavirus alert areas,

It comes after the Mr Johnson held a telephone conference with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday to discuss the situation and ongoing negotiations with local leaders in the north of England.

Many details are yet to be confirmed but leaders in Liverpool said pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos, and gyms would close under the third “very high” tier restrictions, while reports also suggest people will have to avoid all non-essential travel and to not travel between areas.

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

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Some Northern leaders made it clear they are unhappy with the situation and wrote an open letter to northern MPs on Sunday, calling for financial support for businesses affected by restrictions.

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser to the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, has also started legal proceedings to challenge any impending Government restrictions on hospitality and entertainment venues across the north of England.

Coronavirus: Pubs and Restaurants 10pm Curfew

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Soho at 9:15pm on the first night of the 10pm curfew on 4 September 2020

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Sohoon the first night of the 10pm curfew at 9:15pm on 24 September 2020

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Soho at 9:15pm on the first night of the 10pm curfew on 4 September 2020

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Soho at 9:15pm on 24 September 2020

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Soho at 9:15pm on the first night of the 10pm curfew on 4 September 2020

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Soho on the first night of the 10pm curfew at 9:15pm on 24 September 2020

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Soho on the first night of the 10pm curfew at 9:15pm on 24 September 2020

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He said: “There is currently no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure of the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

“Our discussions and ongoing calls for evidence have been ignored and we have therefore been left with little choice but to escalate the matter further.

“Supported by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, we have now engaged lawyers to begin a Judicial Review into the legality of the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the hospitality and entertainment sectors.”

Coronavirus in numbers: UK death toll rises to 42,825

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool city region, said discussions on the new measures had been going on “all night”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re still continuing to try and find the fine detail that will give us some comfort that, one, we can go to our nearly two million residents in the Liverpool city region and explain to them what it is that we’ve negotiated on their behalf, but also we wanted some surety from national government that if we hit some of the milestones we can come out of tier three very quickly.”

He said test and trace with “much more local control”, issues around enforcement and “one or two other packages of support” around capacity for local authorities are already “in the bag” but that other details are being worked out.

He said there is a “sunset clause” after four weeks of restrictions, measuring progress, but the meaning of that is not yet known.

He said: “We want to know what are those measures, how can we ensure that we measure progress against them and how quickly can we come out the other side?”

He added: “I think that they (the Government) haven’t yet bottomed out all of the detail.”

Echoing calls by other northern leaders, Mr Rotherham previously said the new restrictions “must come with the financial support to protect local jobs and businesses”.

Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 2,763 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 8 – the equivalent of 830.0 cases per 100,000 people. This is a huge jump from 314.5 per 100,000 in the seven days to October 1.

Nottingham City Council expects a local lockdown to be imposed on Monday, with councils in the area asking residents to not mix with people outside of their households or bubbles.

Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has climbed from 485.9 to 669.5, with 1,010 new cases, and Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has increased from 504.4 to 598.5, with 2,981 new cases.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said there was a “large gulf” in discussions about new restrictions.

Coronavirus: Face coverings enforcement on Public Transport

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“We seem to have an almost impossible task of penetrating the Westminster bubble,” he told Times Radio.

Sir Richard said Manchester council’s own data showed there was “no evidence closing pubs works”.

He said: “We are still getting things coming from Government and meetings that took place on Friday, not just in Greater Manchester, across the North, where we are getting proposed solutions with no evidence to suggest why they are needed and no evidence to suggest they would work, when all the evidence we have got says they are looking in the wrong place.”

The Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson tweeted: “We have not agreed anything, we have been told this is what Government intends to do with ‘no buts’.”

Mr Anderson said that, if the Government does not offer economic support for people and businesses during the lockdown, they will have to pay instead for people to be on benefits.

He said: “If this was in London we wouldn’t be talking about this.

“It’s because it’s the North West they want to do it on the cheap and we are not going to allow them to do that.”

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”.

“(We) are currently unable to plan for the medium or long-term,” it said.

Robert Jenrick admits councils are ‘bound to be better’ at contact tracing

“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.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s COBR committee to finalise what will be announced in Parliament.

‘Tipping point’ warning as PM ‘at risk of losing public in the North’

He will later host a press conference at Downing Street where he will be joined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

Downing Street said MPs would be asked to debate and vote on the three-tier measures next week.

“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,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“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.”

The Government said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 12,872 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 603,716.

It also said a further 65 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday. This brings the UK total to 42,825.

More about: | Coronavirus | Boris Johnson | Liverpool | Merseyside