Northern city leaders brace for 'toughest lockdown measures yet' ahead of today's Government announcement

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.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 10:54 am
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 11:06 am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spell out his three-tier strategy later today (Monday, October 12) with areas in England to be labelled as medium, high or very high risk.

The three tiers will inform the "appropriate interventions" needed in each area, with Lancashire expected to be placed alongside a number of northern city areas in 'high risk' Tier 3.

Other areas in the North, including Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds and parts of Greater Manchester, are also expected to be placed into Tier 3.

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lancashire is expected to be among a number of areas in the North of England to be subjected to stricter restrictions this week

Leaders in Liverpool are already bracing themselves for Tier 3 restrictions - but say they are still in disagreement with central Government about a financial support package for the area should the harsh measures be imposed.

A statement from seven local leaders, including 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.

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 (October 12)

A separate Job Support Scheme, which launches on November 1 and will last for six months, will see 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.

Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve 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 ordered Liverpool's pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos, adult gaming centres and gyms to close, with all-but-essential travel bans put in place.

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, the region had a total of 1,218 patients in hospital.

What about Lancashire?

In Lancashire on Sunday (October 11), a third meeting in as many days between the county's political leaders and government officials ended with neither agreement on - nor a clear indication of - the likely lockdown restrictions to be introduced in the county in the coming days.

Half a dozen council leaders held a virtual gathering with Downing Street representatives on Sunday afternoon to discuss a letter sent by all 15 local authorities in the region 24 hours earlier, telling the government that they would not support plans to close down the county’s pubs and restaurants as part of attempts to control the spread of coronavirus.

Ministers have instead been urged to make it illegal for households or support bubbles to mix in all indoor and outdoor locations in Lancashire - something which is currently strongly advised, but is only legally enforceable in homes and gardens.

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 COBRA 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.

What happens next?

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.

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."