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Regions across the north of England and the Midlands are currently a patchwork of tier 1, 2 and 3 restrictions, with local politicians in some areas locked in a battle with the government over which tier they should be in.
For many residents who contacted the Guardian via a call out, this has led to much confusion about which regulations apply, and where.
Ian Eastwood lives in Lichfield, which currently has the lowest level of restrictions, but spends much of his time in nearby Walsall, which is in tier 2, meaning households are banned from mixing indoors. He described the measures as “a mess”.
“Nobody knows if you should follow the restrictions of your home, or the place you’re going to,” he said. “Pubs and restaurants don’t know, and they’re not checking, but it’s obvious that people come to our pubs in Lichfield because they can’t go out in their own area.”
“Walsall is on the doorstep, so we socialise there and go to a golf club. At the club, it seems that the people who live in Lichfield can sit together, but the people from Walsall can’t,” he said. “There’s something missing here.”
For others, crossing the borders of local lockdowns was a necessity. Amy*, a doctor in her thirties, works in a hospital in Birmingham, currently in tier 2, and lives there during the week, returning to her home in Bristol, where no additional restrictions are in place. She is unsure which to follow.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “I’ve just been sticking to Birmingham’s rules because I want to be sensible or safe, but I don’t think it’s obvious what to do if you’re travelling in and out of a lockdown zone, and I’m not going to be the only one.”
“I personally think the government is just dragging its heels about inevitably going into national lockdown, and I think that would be much clearer,” she said.
For 18-year-old student Niamh Anscombe, living between her university accommodation in Liverpool, which went into the strictest level of lockdown this week, and her family’s home in Blackburn, in tier 2, the restrictions have been “chaotic”.
“I could not keep up with the regulations at first,” she said. “I’m from Blackburn, my boyfriend lives in Lancaster, and I’m in Liverpool, so I was checking for all those different areas. All the information just said ‘north-west’, it just wasn’t specific enough.
“I’ve been googling stuff to try and work the regulations out, and my grandad keeps up with it well, so if I’m confused I’ll often send him a text.”
With Liverpool city region now in tier 3, and her home town of Blackburn also subject to local restrictions, Anscombe said she did not think she was allowed to go home, but was not entirely sure which regulations applied.
“My mum passed away two years ago, so I was nervous about leaving home and didn’t want to be by myself. I decided to go to Liverpool because it wouldn’t be too far to go home, as I’m really close with my dad,” she said.
“Now, I don’t think I’m allowed to go back and I’m really worried. It’s scary leaving home for the first time.”
Meanwhile, Mandie Shilton Godwin, a 62-year-old local councillor, lives in Manchester under tier 2 restrictions, while one of her children and two of her grandchildren live in Oxford.
“Oxford is too far to visit in a day, you really have to go and stay. Because we’re not allowed to meet with anyone indoors, we dug out our old camping equipment. We haven’t used it for seven or eight years, but except for the mattress, it all worked.”
They have made three trips to campsites near their children’s homes, and meet outdoors to spend time together.
“Up until quite recently I was okay about it, because I really do believe that this is a public health emergency and the measures are for everyone’s benefit. Obviously I was grieving about not being able to see our family, but it felt fair because everyone was having to make those efforts, and it was the same.”
When Greater Manchester was placed under a local lockdown at the end of July, the highest rates of infection were in Oldham, which had 60 cases out of 100,000 people. Today, areas including Oxfordshire and Surrey have higher rates, and Shilton Godwin questioned why areas such as these weren’t also subjected to stricter measures.
“Now it just feels like it isn’t the same,” she said. “It feels like we’ve been singled out and cut off.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘It doesn’t make any sense’: people in the north and Midlands respond to tier system | UK news