Councils argue about where they sit in new lockdown tiers

Councils are jostling to be moved up and down the government’s three-tier lockdown system as they fret over the conflicting demands of local jobs and public health.

Will the Government put Exeter into Tier 3 lockdown?

Andrew Gregory and David Collins www.thetimes.co.uk

With the number of virus infections surging, Boris Johnson plans to introduce the new measures this week to simplify the restrictions.

Millions of people have been subjected to local restrictions for weeks, but there are concerns that mixed messages and confusion over changes to the rules have limited their effectiveness.

Areas with relatively low infection levels will be placed in what is being described as tier 1. Only national restrictions such as the rule of six, the 10pm curfew on restaurants and pubs and existing rules on masks and social distancing will apply.

The next tier is likely to include bans on home visits and indoor socialising with other households in bars or restaurants.

Areas with the worst coronavirus outbreaks will be put in tier 3. Options being considered this weekend include the closure of all hospitality venues, a ban on overnight stays outside your own home and shutting leisure venues such as cinemas.

Tier 3 could see people ordered not to have social contact with anyone outside their household.

The move could see 7,171 pubs in the north of England temporarily shut, accounting for one in five of England’s 37,616 pubs. The region accounts for 18 of the 20 worst Covid hotspots. Liverpool, Manchester and parts of the northeast are all set to be put in tier 3.

But yesterday, an extraordinary lobbying race erupted with several councils scrambling to be placed in higher tiers than the levels they expect.

It is understood that some London boroughs want to be in tier 2 rather than the less strict tier 1, despite relatively low infection rates.

Officials said this was because councils fear they are only weeks behind the north of England.

At the same time, some councils are lobbying the government to be in tier 3 to win economic support.

Conversely, some councils in the Midlands and the north with higher infection rates want to be in a lower tier amid concerns that the tier-3 restrictions would “finish off” their economies.

The jostling is complicated by the fact that the prime minister had yesterday not decided on the final measures for each tier.

It is understood that while pubs and bars will be forced to shut in tier-3 areas, restaurants may be allowed to stay open until 10pm. There is debate over whether to shut hairdressers, leisure centres and gyms.

One option is an 11pm curfew in tier 1. It comes amid opposition to the national 10pm curfew, which will be voted on in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Another idea is to extend the severe measures in tier-3 cities to their suburbs, even if virus infection levels there are lower.

The rules are expected to be reviewed after a month, a government official said. But questions remained about when and how local areas would move up or down tiers. Triggers could include the level of infection, the number of cases or the R figure.

“A key concern is getting trapped in one tier or another,” said a council official. “If you are in an area deemed low-risk, in tier 1, how quickly will you be allowed to move up a tier if infections suddenly take off?”

@AndrewGregory

Tier 1

Areas with the fewest coronavirus cases. Only national restrictions such as the rule of six and the 10pm curfew on restaurants and pubs will apply. Rules on mask-wearing and guidance on social distancing will still apply. One possibility is that varied curfew times could apply to different tiers. The curfew could be 11pm in tier 1 rather than 10pm

Tier 2

The same restrictions and rules as tier 1 apply but may also include bans on home visits and indoor socialising with other households in bars and restaurants

Tier 3

The parts of the country with the highest infection rates. These areas will have to observe all the restrictions in tier 1 and tier 2 but could also see the closure of all hospitality venues, a ban on overnight stays and the shutting of leisure venues. Tier 3 residents might be banned from any social contact with anyone outside their household. Hairdressers, cinemas, and gyms may also face closure

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