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The Conservative mayor of the West Midlands has warned that restrictions imposed on his region of 2.8 million people will devastate businesses and cause an “avoidable domino-effect across local economies”.
In a letter to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, Andy Street demanded a targeted job support scheme, funding for local government to facilitate grants and extended tax relief for hospitality firms in his area.
On Wednesday the West Midlands was put into the tier 2 “high risk” category, alongside most of the north of England, banning all household mixing indoors.
“Under these new restrictions, many businesses will struggle to cover costs and will have to resort to redundancies. This could amount to a closure by default, if not by law. This risks an avoidable domino-effect across local economies,” Street warned Sunak.
It comes as pressure continues to grow on the government to introduce a national “circuit breaker” lockdown, as the death toll from Covid-19 soared to a four-month high.
The government has rejected calls for the lockdown, but Labour believes it has caught the national mood by calling for a a two- or three-week national shutdown over the October half-term.
The pressure is likely to intensify on Wednesday ahead of the publication of a paper by two of the government’s leading scientific advisers. The paper, seen by the FT, says thousands of deaths from Covid-19 could be avoided if a two-week lockdown were imposed.
Forty-two Tory MPs rebelled against the government’s latest cnoronavirus restrictions on Tuesday night. They included Chris Green, a junior minister and the MP for Bolton West, who resigned as a junior minister in protest, telling Johnson: “I believe that the cure is worse than the disease.”
Green’s constituency is in Greater Manchester, which on Wednesday may be moved into the “very high risk” Tier 3 category, along with the Liverpool City region, according to a report from Sky News.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said on Wednesday that he would prefer a national circuit breaker to tier 3 restrictions over winter, which he said would “kill us”.
Just eight hours after pubs and bars in Liverpool were closed and all socialising banned, Paul Brant, cabinet member for adult health and social care at Liverpool city council, said intensive care capacity in the city was over 90% full, with Covid-19 patients making up an increasing proportion of patients.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “At the current rate of increase, we would expect Liverpool to surpass the peak of the first wave probably within the next seven to 10 days.”
Labour continued to pile on the pressure for a circuit-breaker lockdown, with Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, telling Times Radio that university teaching should be online and all hospitality and non-essential retail should be closed.
“We believe that all university teaching now should be online, absolutely essential and that would help contribute to success. But the key parts of the circuit breaker would be a closure of all hospitality, of non essential retail, of working from home, and only essential travel to be made.,” she said.
Several newspapers reported Johnson could order a two-week closure of pubs, restaurants and some other businesses if his three-tier plan fails.
There is a “growing belief” in Johnson’s inner circle that such a move is “inevitable,” the Sun reported, with one “close cabinet colleague” telling the paper there was a 60% chance he will bring in the measure over half-term. Meanwhile the Telegraph quoted a “senior source” saying the chances of a circuit-breaker are “at least 80%”.
But the circuit-breaker concept was rejected by the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, on her morning broadcast round.
“I don’t think it is the right approach. Right now we need to allow this chance for the localised interventions to really have an effect so that together we can be focused on saving lives and livelihoods,” she told LBC radio.
A poll for the Times this week showed a majority of Britons supported tougher measures, even if they were personally financially affected.
It emerged this week that ministers were warned by their scientific advisers three weeks ago that the country faced a “very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” unless they took immediate action by imposing a two-week circuit breaker lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Source: The Guardian
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