UK coronavirus LIVE: London to enter Tier 2 lockdown after midnight on Friday as half of England’s population face new Covid restrictions – Evening Standard
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More than half the population of England is preparing for tougher lockdown restrictions from midnight tonight as London and other “high risk” areas enter Covid Tier 2.
The capital will join areas including Essex and Elmbridge in seeing strict new measures imposed, with millions of people banned from mixing with other households indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
Meanwhile, Lancashire has become only the second region to enter the top band of restrictions, as Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure over his Government’s treatment of the North.
Councillors have accused ministers of “blackmailing and forcing” local leadsers into agreeing to strict new rules, with one council boss saying they were threatened with “more draconian measures” if they refused Downing Street’s terms.
It comes as scientific advisers and local leaders continue to call for so-called “circuit-breaker” shutdowns, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford confirming plans to introduce “a new set of national rules for the whole of Wales”.
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The PM has refused to rule out a national lockdown
Mr Johnson added he wanted to avoid another national lockdown “if at all possible” but added he “cannot rule anything out”.
Parents have been warned they face fines if their children break Covid-19 laws after 30 teenagers broke self-isolation to go to a house party
The pupils risked infecting others by meeting up during an isolation period which followed a positive case at their school in Middlesbrough, which has not been named by the council.
Anyone testing positive or who is identified as a close contact must self-isolate by law, with fines starting at £1,000 and rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.
Under the restrictions, parents are legally responsible for ensuring children stay at home.
South Tees joint director of public health Mark Adams said: “This is a really unsettling time for young people.
“Their education is being disrupted and their way of life has changed in a way they couldn’t have imagined. But it’s vital that everyone who is identified as a close contact self-isolates for 14 days.
“That’s crucial to us stopping the spread of Covid and returning to more normality as soon as possible.”
PM threatens to intervene in Manchester
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham directly during the press conference.
He said he understood Mr Burnham’s reluctance to take his city to tier 3, but he stressed that “the situation in Greater Manchester is grave and it worsens every day”
Mr Johnson told the nation that Covid cases have doubled over the past nine days in Greater Manchester.
“At current projections, in just over 2 weeks there will be more patients in intensive care than at the height of the first wave”, he added
The Prime Minister finished his address to Mr Burnham by threatening to intervene in Greater Manchester if an agreement can not be reached.
Boris Johnson is now speaking from Downing Street
Sage member doubts tiers will stop surge in cases
Prof Edmunds said he thinks it helps “enormously” if people understand what the coronavirus restrictions are in their area.
He said: “The previous situation resulted in a hodge-podge of different interventions in different places that almost literally no-one could follow.
“So the three-tier system will help with that enormously.
“I am not sure, however, that the measures will go far enough to stop epidemic growth. I hope so, but I doubt it.
“It seems much more likely that we will have to step up the measures significantly to ease the pressure on the health system that will inevitably occur if cases continue to rise as they are.”
This graphic shows how infections have grown across England’s regions:
Current Tier 3 measures won’t have ‘large effect’ on virus
Asked if he thinks the three-tier system is enough to drive down infection rates to a manageable level or if a full national lockdown is needed, Professor John Edmunds, epidemiologist and member of Sage, said: “It would take two weeks at least to see an effect on cases, due to the delays between infection and being reported as a case.
“So it would not be possible to pick up any effect yet. However, it should also be pointed out that the tier system has been more about tidying-up and clarifying the measures than an exercise in tightening up controls.”
Referring to Liverpool, which is under the Tier 3 category, he said the restrictions there “mainly amounts to closure of pubs that don’t serve food”.
He added: “So, I am not sure that we would expect to see a large effect of the current measures anyway.”
Lancashire leader accuses Sunak of ‘broken promises’
Pendle Council leader Mohammed Iqbal told the Lancashire Telegraph newspaper: “Throughout the negotiations, Government officials were only interested in the politics and threatened any district leader who did not fall into line with 10 Downing Street’s threats to accept Tier 3 would (instead) suffer an imposition of Tier 3 and that their borough ‘would become an island’ that would receive much less in funding and resource.
“Rishi Sunak’s promise that the Government will provide “whatever is necessary” has clearly become a broken promise to the people of Lancashire and the North.
“Lancashire leaders have not been given the policies or the means to stop the spread of the virus and have been bullied for political gain by 10 Downing Street.”
It’s going to be a long, cold winter for some…
Couples living apart in areas with Tier 2 restrictions are not allowed to have sleepovers unless they are in a “support bubble”, Downing Street confirmed today.
Boyfriends and girlfriends will be able to meet outdoors in Tier 2 but are expected to adhere to social distancing rules such as hands, face and space. They must also adhere to the rule of six.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a briefing of Westminster journalists: “The rules on household mixing in Tier 2 set out that you should mix with your own household only unless you’ve formed a support bubble and that obviously does apply to some couples.”
Blackpool leader says region had no choice but to accept deal
The Labour leader of Blackpool Council, Lynn Williams, said: “This is not what I wanted for Blackpool. We had no option but to ultimately agree this. Had we have not done so we would have been placed in Tier 3 with no money and no support measures.
“However, the rates of Covid-19 across Lancashire are rising and we have always accepted that something needs to be done now to try to stem that tide.
“It is also crucial that the health of our residents, the businesses in our town and our economy is protected and supported as much as is possible, and so on that basis now is the right time for Lancashire to move into Tier 3.
“We could have turned this deal down, but more businesses would have suffered as a result of it and we would have been put into Tier 3 soon anyway.”
Hope for carers
Care minister Helen Whately has shared more details about a pilot visiting scheme for care homes.
In an online update, she said designated family members who provide regular personal care will be able to visit care home residents several times a week.
The pilot was announced earlier this week but it is unclear when it will start.
Ms Whately said she is “determined to give social care all the help we can to control Covid-19 this winter”.
She continued: “I hope further peace of mind will come for care staff, residents and visitors following news that we are working up proposals with clinicians and stakeholder groups to run a new visiting scheme.
“This scheme will allow specific or designated care home visitors, who provide regular personal care, to attend residential settings multiple times a week.
“We hope this will help reduce feelings of isolation among residents and provide additional support to care staff.”
England’s hospital death toll up by 82
A further 82 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England.
This brings the total number of deaths reported in hospitals to 30,825.
Patients were aged between 35 and 97. All but eight patients, aged between 49 and 94, had known underlying health conditions, NHS England said.
The deaths were between October 2 and October 15, with the majority on or after October 14.
Wales sees almost 1000 new cases as deaths rise by five
There have been a further 979 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,005.
Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,703.
London couples can only meet outdoors… and no touching – No10
Downing Street said Tier 2 restrictions meant couples living apart could see each other outdoors – but social distancing restrictions meant they would not be able to have physical contact.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman stressed that the restrictions were set out in law.
“The rules on household mixing in Tier 2 set out that you should mix with your own household only unless you have formed a support bubble and that obviously does apply to some couples,” he said.
The spokesman confirmed couples not in support bubbles and living apart could meet outside but should “follow social distancing and the hand, face, space rules”.
Asked why an exemption for “established relationships” was not written into the law for those in Tiers 2 and 3, he added: “Because the purpose of the measures we’ve put in place is to break the chain of transmission between households and the scientific advice is that there is greatest transmission of the virus indoors.”
Government package ‘not enough’ to protect Lancashire businesses
Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, Labour leader of Pendle Borough Council, said: “We do not think closing pubs and bars is the right approach to bring down the level of Covid-19 in Pendle, although we are pleased that those serving substantial meals such as lunch or an evening meal can remain open.
“I know how hard businesses across Pendle have worked to make sure their businesses are safe places to visit, and for the Government to impose closures is simply wrong.
“We’re doing everything we can to protect them and our community to ensure those in financial hardship get the help they need.
“Pendle and other Lancashire authorities have been negotiating with the Government and have fought for a support package for Lancashire which is not available in other areas in the country.
“In my view, the package the Government has agreed is not enough but it will offer a measure of support to businesses and local people.”
Lancashire ‘blackmailed’ into Tier 3
The Labour leader of South Ribble Borough Council in Lancashire said they had moved into Tier 3 restrictions “very reluctantly” after they were “blackmailed and forced” to accept the Government’s terms.
Councillor Paul Foster said: “As leaders throughout Lancashire, we have been negotiating in really good faith with the Government for over a week now because many of us believe, and still believe, what the Government is proposing will only have minimal if any impact on the strength of the virus.
“What will happen though is a number of businesses will now be forced to close and we are desperately, desperately upset at the financial and the mental anguish this will cause to a number of people.
“We got to a situation this morning where basically – and I don’t use these words lightly – the Government blackmailed and forced us into agreeing to the terms they were offering to the point if we didn’t agree they were basically going to place more draconian measures on you all.
“We could not accept that so therefore I very reluctantly agreed to the terms of the Government’s deal.”
North East infections ‘down slightly’
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said while Greater Manchester’s infection rate was going up, it had declined “slightly” in the North East and the Yorkshire and Humber regions.
The No 10 spokesman said: “We have published the data for hospital admissions in the North West.
“I think you can see that that continues to be of significant concern.
“I believe there are new R and growth rates that have been published today as well – in the North West, the growth rate is now 1.3 to 1.5 and that compares to 1.2 to 1.4 last week.
“The growth rate is from 5+% to 7+% in the North West, which again is an increase on last week.
“In the North East and the Yorkshire region the R rate is 1.32 (and) 1.4 – and that is down slightly on the figures that were released last week.”
PM refuses to concede to circuit-breaker calls
Number 10 said the Prime Minister was not currently looking at imposing a so-called “circuit-breaker” national lockdown.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think you’ve heard from the PM on a number of occasions on this topic this week.
“We do keep all measures under review but he has set out this week that he doesn’t believe there should be a national lockdown, and that we believe our three-tiered approach is the right way forward.”
No10 insists local leaders worked ‘constructively’ to secure Tier 3 deal for Lancashire
Asked about some Lancashire leaders reportedly saying they were bullied into the Tier 3 move, Number 10 said it had worked in “consultation” with councils.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “He (Boris Johnson) is very grateful that those council leaders in Lancashire have worked in consultation with the Government and have come on board.
“We want to continue to work with local authorities in other areas where we have significant concerns in order to seek to put in place further measures to control the virus.”
The No 10 spokesman was also pressed on Pendle Council leader, Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, saying Downing Street had effectively “threatened” to withhold funding to individual local authorities if they objected to the upgrade in restrictions.
He replied: “I don’t personally know the detail of the discussions that were had.
“But I know our approach throughout was to work constructively with local authorities and to ensure we had the right level of support for people locally because we know just how difficult the coronavirus restrictions are.”
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