Call for business support as new lockdown begins

Amid soaring cases of COVID-19 across England Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces a new lockdown to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. Tony McDonough reports

COVID-19, coronavirus, virus, epidemic, pandemic, disease, infection
Cases of COVID-19 are soaring across the country


Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has repeated his call for businesses and local councils to be given more financial support as England enters a new COVID-19 lockdown.

On Monday evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the NHS was once again at risk of being overwhelmed as COVID cases soared across the country. Although London and the South East are being hit hardest the Liverpool city region is now seeing a rapid rise in infections.

All non-essential retail has been ordered to close along with primary and secondary schools, gyms, hairdressers and other personal care businesses. Nurseries will be allowed to remain open.

Mr Johnson indicated the full lockdown may last until at least mid-February. The big difference this time, he said, was a rapid rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. It is hoped it could pave the way for some return to normal in the summer.

Under the rules people are being advised to stay at home and to work from home if possible. Vulnerable people are being advised to shield. People can only leave home to work, essential shopping, exercise (with one other person), care for someone or seek medical help.

Communal worship can continue and elite sports, such as Premier League football will also be allowed to continue. Takeaways can stay open but will not be allowed to sell alcohol.

Mr Rotheram said: “Given the very rapid rise of infections in the Liverpool city region and across the country, I have been calling for tighter restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and save lives while we wait for vaccines to fully roll out.

“We are now at a critical moment. We are yet to see the full effects of the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas and, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen just how quickly the new variant of the virus can spread and multiply. Considering all of this, an effective national lockdown is now the right thing to do.

Unlike last March, we now have a clear end point in sight, when the vaccination programme is fully up and running. The Government must provide the resource needed to speed up the roll out of the vaccine as quickly as possible. It is also vital that businesses, councils and individuals are given the financial support they need to manage during this period.

Every day of lost schooling impacts on our children and the impact is most hard on the poorest and most vulnerable. With schools closing, there should be an urgent scheme to ensure that all children have the equipment and internet access they need to continue learning and stop them falling even further behind.”

Andrew Ruffler, chief executive of Professional Liverpool, which represents hundreds of businesses, acknowledged the new lockdown is “necessary to slow down the fast spread of the new variant”.

He added: “Schools closing is a huge issue and we’d encourage a renewed understanding and acceptance of the circumstances that individuals and businesses will be facing, particularly those who will be once more juggling their personal and professional commitments at a time when out of school care for children is not accessible.”

Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram


Carl Williams, North West managing partner at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which has a base in the Royal Liver Building, said: “Since the first national lockdown in March 2020 many North West businesses have developed robust continuity plans and invested in their IT networks to ensure colleagues can work from home, so the new lockdown should not be too disruptive for sectors that are able to switch to remote working.

“However, amid surging infection rates the closure of all schools will be a big challenge for parents with children of primary and secondary school age, who need more support and input to learn, so where possible, employers must be flexible and understanding of their staff during the coming weeks.

“Alongside the continued provision of the Job Retention Scheme to support the worst-hit sectors like retail and hospitality, the good news for 2021 is that we know a COVID- 19 vaccine programme is being rolled out so there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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