Prime minister announces new three-tier system of Covid-19 restrictions in parliament

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons that the three levels will be for medium, high and very high case rates of the novel coronavirus.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 5:28 pm
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 6:46 pm

Areas at medium level will have the current national measures of the rule of six and a 10pm curfew for hospitality, while the high level will have indoor mixing of households and support bubbles banned but groups of up to six can meet outdoors, including in gardens.

It was also announced that the Liverpool City Region will be put in the very high tier three, with household mixing banned and pubs and bars, gyms and leisure centres, betting shops and casinos all closing.

Some of these are standard measures for the third tier whereas others were arrived at in discussion with local leaders on Merseyside.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons

It has now been confirmed that Wigan, along with the other nine local authorities in Greater Manchester, is in tier two.

MPs will debate and vote on the three tiers on Tuesday and if the package of measures is approved they will come into force on Wednesday.

The prime minister spoke of ongoing engagement with local leaders in the North West and particularly thanked Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram and his colleagues in Merseyside.

However, that was not the experience of the borough’s MPs who took to Twitter to complain they had not even been invited to the lunchtime briefing with the health minister.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy blasted the Government’s communications as a “shambles” while Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said she had also found out what was happening to her constituency on social media.

On Monday evening Ms Nandy tweeted about what the new rules would mean for the borough and the urgency of the situation.

She said: "In Greater Manchester restrictions will stay largely the same (so no household mixing indoors) but will be slightly relaxed outdoors where the rule of six now replaces a ban on household mixing in gardens.

"But after listening to the medical and scientific data it is clear that the situation is very serious, transmission outside the home is an under recorded problem, and I am not at all convinced these measures will be sufficient to allow us to get control of the virus."

Ms Nandy committed to working to keep people safe "as an absolute priority" and said "this must go hand in hand with financial support".

Opening his statement to MPs Mr Johnson said he was not willing to consider either a second national lockdown or allowing the younger population to continue something like normal life while the vulnerable shield.

He said there would be no way to prevent the virus spreading to the elderly population and it would still be "lethal" for too many younger people.

However, he said the local measures introduced had become too complex and confusing and required simplifying and standardising.

He said: “I know how difficult this is, but we cannot let the NHS fall over when lives are at stake.”

Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer said the country is “at a critical moment” but said he was “deeply sceptical” the Government could “get control of this crisis, protect jobs and regain public trust”.

He said it felt like the Government’s response was “several steps behind the curve”.

The prime minister faced intense questioning from MPs over whether sufficient support was being offered to workers and businesses, particularly in tier two and tier three areas, and over the performance of the national track and trace system.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s support offer was highly competitive compared to those in other European countries.

Locally there was considerable relief among business organisations that Greater Manchester had avoided going into tier three.

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce also said far more help needed to be offered.

The organisation’s director of policy and communications Chris Fletcher said: “We may have dodged a bullet for now but unless we bring the virus under control the very real danger is that we end up in Tier 3 later.

"Without adequate support ,funding, transparent planning and upfront, adequately timed communications by government this would be a disaster for the local economy.”

The CBI said it supported the new, clearer rules but also emphasised the job was far from done.

Its North West regional director Damian Waters said: "Businesses in the worst-affected areas have too often had to plan on rumour or react last minute, weakening efforts to protect jobs. This can be solved with more collaboration between business, central and local governments. Restoring a sense of national unity is critical for tackling the virus.

"Ultimately, mass rapid testing must really ramp up if we’re to prevent a second wave from further harming economic growth. Every day counts.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Greater Manchester said businesses and supply chains needed support as well as employees and suggested many firms, especially in the hospitality sector, would need another cash injection to get through the winter.

It also said a rescue package was also needed for people including the directors of small companies and the newly self-employed, who have been excluded from the Government's measures.