Steve October 12, 2020


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New local lockdown rules for England are due to be announced later.

The Liverpool City Region is expected to face the tightest restrictions under a new “three-tier” system, which will classify regions as being on “medium”, “high” or “very high” alert.

Steve Rotheram, the city region’s mayor, says negotiations have taken place through the night but “no deal” has been agreed yet.

Talks between local leaders in England and Westminster continue.

Liverpool recorded 600 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending 6 October. The average for England was 74.

The Liverpool City Region includes the local authority districts of Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral, as well as Liverpool.

Gyms, casinos and pubs are among the businesses expected to be impacted by the top-level restrictions, with new curbs to be reviewed after a month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is chairing a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee “to determine the final interventions”.

He will then announce changes in the Commons, before speaking at a Downing Street press conference at 18:00 BST.

The prime minister is expected to be joined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty.

Tougher measures were introduced in Scotland on Friday, including the closure of pubs and restaurants across the central belt, while the Welsh government has said the next few days could determine if “national measures” are implemented.

media captionVideos on social media showed Saturday night street scenes in some cities, including an impromptu game of cricket

Under the new system for England, tier three is expected to involve the tightest restrictions.

We know the broad outline of what the government is going to announce today.

Ministers have been working on a tier system for local restrictions in England for weeks – and today they’ll confirm how it will work and the basic principles.

The Liverpool region is set to be the first put into the “very high” top tier – which will mean significant restrictions on hospitality within days.

But there are still details of a support package being worked out.

The metro mayor in Liverpool Steve Rotheram is adamant there needs to be more support for workers and businesses that will be told to close.

He doesn’t think the chancellor’s current plans go far enough – and I’m told conversations on economic support are likely to continue into this afternoon.

There have been questions about definitions – when is a pub a pub, which could be told to close, rather than restaurant which might not?

It’s worth highlighting that if other areas are added to the highest tier in the next few weeks, restrictions may look different.

Sources say there is room for flexibility based on local factors.

Mr Rotheram told BBC Breakfast he wanted “some surety from national government that if we hit some milestones we can come out of tier three very quickly”.

He said the government had been clear the Liverpool City Region would be placed in the highest category, with “no ifs, no buts”.

He said it had already been agreed that there would be more local control over track and trace and enforcement measures but there was still some reassurance needed on wider financial support for businesses that would be severely impacted by going into tier three.

Mr Rotheram has previously warned the government “can’t do lockdown on the cheap” and called for support for the city region and businesses forced to close by any measures.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told Today the government was “not panicking” but taking “reasonable and proportionate measures”, adding that “we know there are challenges around hospitality”.

Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Breakfast: “Most of the outbreaks are happening within and between households and then after that, it’s in the retail and hospitality sector.

“So, the major issue here is to focus on the cities and areas with the largest outbreaks and sadly my home city of Liverpool is being hammered at the moment. These restrictions are necessary.”

The problem with introducing the sort of restrictions that are being suggested to control the spread of the virus is that no-one is really sure whether they will really work.

Firstly, while the government’s advisers can track patterns in where infected individuals have been prior to being diagnosed, they cannot prove that they were actually infected in those places.

Secondly, there will be unintended consequences.

Close pubs and you may make the situation worse by driving people to mix more in private homes which are less “Covid-secure”.

It is point that has been made in recent days by Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese as well as others as ministers weigh up their options.

Then there is the economic, social and emotional toll of closing down parts of a community.

These are decisions that will divide opinion and, what is more, it will be nigh on impossible to judge exactly what impact they will have had on the virus.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said the region was waiting to find out if they would be able to stay in tier two, and is arguing that the government has not presented any evidence that hospitality is responsible for spreading Covid-19 in the area.

He told the Today programme the region had put forward a proposal to keep them in tier two that would involve more local track and trace measures and powers to close premises which do not comply with the rules. “We will see if we get approval for that plan,” he added.

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, has started legal proceedings to challenge any restrictions on hospitality and entertainment venues in the North of England.

He said there was “currently no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure” of the sectors and that local leaders’ requests for evidence had been “ignored”.

Greater Manchester Police handed out more than 70 fines over the weekend for breaches of coronavirus laws.

On Saturday, officers broke up a party of as many as 100 students at a property in south Manchester, issuing seven fines and a noise abatement order.

Jim McMahon MP, shadow transport secretary, told the Today programme the government had been “aloof” in dealing with council leaders and mayors. This “snowballs into growing distrust”, he said but this week was an opportunity to “reset”.

People in 17 parts of Wales now face local lockdown rules – and cannot leave these areas without a good reason, such as going to work.

And ministers and health officials in Northern Ireland spent Sunday discussing what to do about the rapidly increasing rates of the virus. One MP said he believed lockdowns would be examined by the Northern Ireland Executive on Monday.

On Sunday, 12,872 people in the UK were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus – some 2,294 fewer than on Saturday.

There were a further 65 deaths – down from 81 on Saturday.

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