The Prime Minister is announcing a new set of targeted restrictions for cities and towns in England today (12 October) – which could result in the closure of pubs, bars, restaurants and gyms in areas with high infection rates.
Plans are being made to place regions into a ‘three tier’ local lockdown system – with each tier having its own set of rules determined by a risk level: ‘medium’, ‘high’, or ‘very high’.
Tier Three would be the strictest – with businesses asked to close and and citizens urged to avoid mixing in any setting.
Reports surfacing over the weekend have suggested that Liverpool is the first to be categorised as Tier Three – with residents now anticipating the mass closure of hospitality.
Casinos and bookmakers are also expected to shut – but schools and universities may remain open.
Numbers have risen sharply in the Liverpool City Region in recent weeks – with Knowsley recording 944 cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to 4 October (the highest in the country).
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also told his city to “start preparing for additional restrictions” in the coming days, with positive test numbers growing in the capital.
But where is Manchester in all of this?
The most likely outcome is that all ten GM boroughs will be bundled into Tier Two or Three. This would mean that local pubs, bars and possibly restaurants could close as part of a local lockdown.
Infection rates have slowed in recent days, but nonetheless remain at a high level across the board.
Outbreaks at universities have also contributed to skewing data in the ‘wrong’ direction.
Greater Manchester was one of the first areas to be hit by government intervention after the initial lockdown was lifted – with a ban on different households meeting indoors announced in July.
But if new measures are deemed to be too severe, they be contested by Manchester’s local leaders.
Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a furlough scheme to protect any businesses affected this winter, promising the government would cover two thirds of worker wages.
But Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, alongside other Northern leaders, called the package “insufficient”.
“To accept the Chancellor’s package would be to surrender our residents to hardship and our businesses to potential failure and collapse and we are not prepared to do that,” said Burnham.
Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord, anticipating the closure of local hospitality, has even launched legal action against the government.
“We have been given no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure of hospitality and entertainment sectors,” said Lord.
“[We] have been left with no option than to escalate the matter with legal action.”
Under the new local lockdown system, it is understood there may be flexibility for local leaders to make decisions for their own area moving ahead.
Reports surfacing this morning suggest that Liverpool will have discretion over the closure of restaurants for example, rather than simply enforcing a blanket ban on hospitality.
The rules and regulations may become clearer later today, as the PM is set to outline the measures in the Commons.
Johnson will then attend a press conference in the evening – joined by Rishi Sunak and England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty.