Mayors of Northern lockdown areas at war with Gov over new measures & slam 10pm curfew as cases continue to soar
A GROUP of Northern Mayors are today at war with the Government over lockdown rules – as they fight new restrictions which may close pubs within days.
The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils – Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes – joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to write to the Health Secretary to say they are "extremely concerned" with the rise in cases.
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And they said they would not back any more economic lockdown measures which would hurt businesses.
The Labour politicians wrote: "The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive.
They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, and for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts and for a locally-controlled test and trace system instead of the national one.
They added: "We want to be clear however that we do not support further economic lockdowns."
Regional leaders have long been unhappy with central decision-making on local measures.
They want to have much more of a say in how the new rules should come in, and when.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "We're seeing 2,500 new cases in the last week in Liverpool and yet we're seeing restrictions that were imposed on Manchester and Newcastle not working and the increasing infection rate going up.
"It's about common sense, it's about getting the balance right and about what we can do, what we should do and how local lockdowns work, working with local leaders to get it right.
"There's a lack of consistency, a lack of clarity, but most of all a lack of communication and collaboration."
He described the 10pm curfew as having "the wrong effect" and said it should be down to local authorities to work with businesses in the area.
The calls came as the UK-wide seven-day rate increased to 125.7 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people from 63.8 a week ago, according to analysis by the PA news agency.
And there's a clear North-South divide between parts of the country with soaring rates, and others with lower numbers.
The worst-hit area is Manchester, where 3,105 new cases were recorded in the seven days to October 3 — the equivalent of 561.6 per 100,000 people.
That is up from 261.2 in the week before.
Manchester University, where there have been more than 1,000 coronavirus cases since September 21, has joined with Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Sheffield in announcing a move to online learning to protect the health of students and staff.
A huge chunk of the new cases is said to be coming from student outbreaks.
And earlier this week 15,000 extra cases were missed off the official figures after an IT failure.
Merseyside is next, with Knowsley and Liverpool both recording sharp rises over 500 per 100,000, followed by Newcastle upon Tyne.
Boris Johnson is today deciding whether to implement tougher lockdown measures in the North of England to stop the spread – as Nicola Sturgeon is set to reveal her own plans later.
Previously pubs were ordered to shut only in Bolton over their soaring figures – but have since been told they can reopen.
Pubs and restaurants face closure in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak scrambling to put together a local bailout package for businesses facing ruin.
Some shops could also be forced to shut, but workplaces and schools would remain open.
Professor John Edmunds, who is advising the Government's coronavirus response, joined the criticism of local measures on Tuesday and said new national restrictions were needed immediately.
The SAGE adviser told Newsnight last night: "We will at some point put very stringent measures in place because we will have to when hospitals start to really fill up.
"Frankly, the better strategy is to put them in place now.
"These local restrictions that have been put in place in much of the north of England really haven't been very effective."
Downing Street was hit with a “white-faced briefing” from senior medics about soaring virus numbers in the North West and North East earlier this week.
It prompted the PM to delay his plan to replace complex local lockdown rules with a simpler tiered system.
A No 10 source said: “The numbers are going the wrong way, and there will come a point very soon where we simply have to do more.”
Nationwide, the daily infection rate was 14,542 — up around 2,000 in 24 hours — with 76 deaths.
Earlier today Cabinet minister Liz Truss admitted she was "deeply uncomfortable" with the restrictions as she was a "freedom-lover" but said these were not ordinary times.
She told Times Radio: "I am a freedom lover. I would not want to see these restrictions put in place in normal circumstances. But we are not in normal circumstances. We are in an extraordinary crisis.
"We have to do things we are inherently uncomfortable with in order to protect lives and protect livelihoods… but of course I'm deeply uncomfortable with it."
The Scottish leader will today reveal her plans – set to include closing some hospitality venues for two weeks to curb the spread.
It may also include travel restrictions, but it will stop short of a full lockdown like seen earlier this year.
But plunging the nation into another mini-lockdown will leave businesses crying out for more financial support if they are ordered to close their doors again.
However, Ms Sturgeon made clear she will not “shut down the entire economy" or "halt the remobilisation of the NHS".
Schools will also remain open and Scots will not be asked to stay in their homes.
The Scottish Sun revealed today that the circuit-breaker – which is set to be in place for two weeks – could come in as early as Friday.
She will make a statement in the Scottish Parliament later today.
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