Liverpool at ‘critical point’ in battle against COVID-19

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise and more deaths were inevitable, says Liverpool director of public health Matt Ashton, as Liverpool’s hospitality sector also faces big losses. Tony McDonough reports

coronavirus, disease, virus, flu, infection, COVID
COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise across Liverpool with new control measures in place


Liverpool is now at a “critical” point in the battle against COVID-19 as cases continue to rise, the city’s director of public health says.

On Sunday evening Matt Ashton tweeted that, as of September 24, the seven-day rate of positive cases in the city has risen sharply to 252 per 100,000 people and was doubling every eight to nine days. He warned an eventual rise in deaths was inevitable.

“We are now in a very difficult position. Our current risk level is high,” he said. “Liverpool is in a critical position now in relation to COVID-19. I know this is going to be hard for lots of people but we all need to be playing our part to protect individuals, communities, the city and the economy.

“We are seeing more cases across all age groups with increases now in 65-plus age groups, and sharp increases in COVID-19 hospital admissions locally. Increases in deaths are likely to follow. We all have to play our part in protecting individuals and our communities.”

On Saturday, Peter Hampshire, the clinical lead for critical care at the Royal Liverpool Hospital also issued a warning, saying: “There are around 50 people across Cheshire and Merseyside in critical care with COVID-19. It is concerning that this resurgence is steep and cases are concentrated in central Liverpool hospitals.”

New control measures came into force across Merseyside on September 23. These include a ban on members of different households mixing in private homes and gardens and a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants with table service only allowed.

People have been urged to use public transport only when necessary for essential reasons, such as work, education or to get food or medicine. Weddings are limited to 15 people and funerals limited to 30 people and people are being urged, again, to work from home where possible.

On Friday police moved to close a music event in Anfield attended by 250 people amid claims those in attendance weren’t socially distancing. And there were alarming scenes in Liverpool city centre on Saturday evening when many revellers spilled out onto the street and held an impromptu party.

The introduction of new restrictions has raised fears of another massive shock for the economy with hospitality businesses, in particular, now facing a fight for survival. The sector has already lost £1bn in revenues already this year. The period leading up to Christmas is usually the most lucrative time of the year for shops, bars and restaurants. But this year, prospects are looking much bleaker.

Matt Ashton
Matt Ashton, director of public health in Liverpool


Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a new raft of measures, including a jobs support scheme to replace furlough, loans and cuts to VAT. But Merseyside business leaders fear it may not be enough to stop many businesses going under. 

On Monday, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, insisted that if further control measures were introduced in Merseyside by the Government then it was essential further support was offered to prevent business closures and jobs losses.

Mr Rotherman said: “If they are going to force another shutdown of the hospitality industry and a ban on all social gatherings, then they need to put in place proper financial support for councils and local public health teams, for business to prevent them from going under and to stop thousands of people losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

“To be effective, any announcement on further local restrictions or local lockdowns has to come with clear messaging and a package of measures to protect jobs and support the local economy, including a local furlough scheme, financial support for businesses and support for the self-employed – many of whom have not received any help at all since this crisis began.”

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business, added: “If the hospitality sector is responsible for a 4.6% increase in infection rates, why is it taking 90% of the pain in terms of the new restrictions that Boris Johnson has introduced?

“If it is pubs and clubs where individuals are most likely to come into close contact, why adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and impose the same guidelines on restaurants and hotels?

“And, having encouraged workers back into the office three short weeks ago, with companies investing millions in creating COVID-secure office space, why is he now telling us to work from home – hence sending our city and town centres into further crisis?”

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