LAWMAKERS will vote on the new three-tiered system of further restrictions on parts of England to curb an increase in Covid-19 cases on Tuesday(13).
British prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday(12) announced a new three-tiered system in an attempt to standardise a patchwork of often complicated and confusing restrictions imposed in the country.
The lockdowns will include shutting pubs and bars and banning wedding receptions in areas placed in the “very high” alert level from Wednesday(14). The other alert levels in the new system are “medium” and “high”.
So far, Merseyside in northwest England – which includes the city of Liverpool – is the only area classified at the “very high” level. Gyms, leisure centres, casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres there will also close, Johnson said.
“We must act to save lives,” Johnson told parliament, adding that he did not want another national lockdown and that he understood the frustrations of those chafing at the “repressions of liberty”.
“If we let the virus rip, then the bleak mathematics dictate that we would suffer not only an intolerable death toll from Covid, but we would put such a huge strain on our NHS (National Health Service) with an uncontrolled second spike that our doctors and nurses would simply be unable to devote themselves to other treatments.”
Health officials say the freshest data showed infections were rising across the north of England and in some more southerly areas too, while the virus was creeping up age bands towards the elderly from those aged 16-29 years.
Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, said the standard restrictions that would apply to very high risk areas would not be enough to control the outbreak there, and urged local authorities to go further.
Schools, restaurants and most workplaces will remain open even in the “very high” risk areas.
Manchester intensive care consultant Jane Eddleston said 30 per cent of critical care beds were taken up with Covid-19 patients and this was starting to affect healthcare for others.
The three-tiered system applies only to England as devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have responsibility for their own health arrangements.
Under the new restrictions, pubs that serve meals will be allowed to stay open, though they will only be able to serve alcohol as part of such a meal.
‘Businesses will be wiped out’
The last pints could be pulled in some pubs across northern England this week as furious bosses warn new coronavirus restrictions will wipe out their businesses, which are already reeling from a national lockdown earlier this year.
Liverpool, birthplace of the Beatles and home to the current premier league soccer champions, will be the first city to be placed in the highest alert tier along with the surrounding area, meaning pubs face closure from Wednesday.
Pub managers there reacted with disbelief and anger.
“My biggest worry as a boss and a licensee is my business will have to close again and we may very well not come open next time because there’s no funds in the pot from last time,” said Frances Burleigh, landlady of The Beehive pub in the city centre.
“The last lockdown I lost £6,500 on beer alone and £3,500 on food and I’ll not survive that this time.”
While local leaders say they support lockdown measures, they have demanded that the government pump more money into helping the hospitality industry and others affected by the forced closures, arguing that measures announced by finance minister Rishi Sunak last week did not go far enough.
David Dutton, a musician who plays local pubs, said he’d already gone from six or seven gigs a week to two at best, even before the latest restrictions start.
“We are not getting help,” he said. “It just feels like you’re shouting down a massive well. There’s nobody listening.”