Government tells Liverpool city region leaders that COVID-19 control measures will be introduced this week – but were told in return the financial support offered remains ‘inadequate’. Tony McDonough reports
Pubs, bars, betting shops, casinos and gyms will close across Liverpool city region on Wednesday – but restaurants will remain open.
In response to the significant rise in COVID-19 cases in Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton, the city region will be put into ‘Tier 3’ measures from Wednesday, Metro Mayr Steve Rotheram was told on Sunday.
To win the co-operation of Mr Rotheram, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and the other five council leaders, the Government has agreed to put COVID track and trace in the hands of local public health officials. The offer from the Government includes:
- An enforcement package, with laws, not just guidance and advice, and funding and resources to enforce restrictions where necessary.
- An effective local track, trace and isolate package with the funding to support it, cooperation on data, local control and the guaranteed supplies and resources required.
However, the city region leaders are still pushing for an agreement on a wider package of support for businesses that are forced to close and their employees. They are unanimous in their view that the new measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday are inadequate and are pushing for a more generous proposal.
Liverpool city region is now becoming the recognised epicentre for the resurgence of COVID-19. Not only is the number if cases soaring but the number of admissions to hospitals and to intensive care units are also rising.
And a document leaked to the Health Service Journal says North West hospitals could see as many as 850 COVID-19 deaths in the next five weeks, if appropriate action isn’t taken. The modelling was produced by a team at the University of Manchester working with public health officials and the NHS.
The report stresses the numbers represent a potential scenario, They project that by November 17 around 2,400 COVID patients could be occupying beds across North West hospitals.
In their statement, the city region leader said: “We have been working collectively throughout the whole weekend to negotiate a package of support from the Government in the best interests of the people of the Liverpool city region.
“Together we agree and share the grave concerns with regard to the increasing pressure on our hospitals and remain absolutely committed to working with the Government to drive down the spread of the coronavirus and the number of COVID-19 cases.
“We have made it clear that while our priority is the health and wellbeing of our residents, the wellbeing of our economy is also a top priority. 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… but we have agreed to remain in meaningful dialogue with Government to establish a wider, appropriate and mutually agreeable financial support package to mitigate the impact of new Tier 3 restrictions.
The Tier 3 restrictions could be in place for six months and the city region is also insisting on a “clear definition of the exit strategy”, adding: “We remain committed to dialogue with the Government to achieve a mutually agreeable solution.”
Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group, Downtown in Businesses, told LBN: “They (the Government) have put the hospitality sector in a box, offered a limited amount of financial support, but failed to acknowledge the impact that closing bars, pubs and restaurants has on the wider economy.
“I am astonished that a Conservative administration apparently doesn’t understand the business ecosystem of our major towns and cities. By shutting down hospitality, you are killing our retail sector, visitor and cultural attractions, public transport patronage, taxi businesses, hotels and more.
“Unless the Chancellor comes up with a much more comprehensive package of investment than he has outlined so far, then we will see a tsunami of job losses across the north in the run up to Christmas.
“The medium- term impact on cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle will also be devastating and could take many years to fix. It feels like we are on the verge of going back to the 1980s.”