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Millions of people living under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions in England are waiting nervously to hear whether they will be able to go to the pub or out for a meal before Christmas ahead of an announcement on the government’s tiering system on Thursday morning.
Though political leaders have been publicly making the case for their towns and cities to be moved out of tier 3 so that their hospitality businesses can reopen, few hold out real hope that they will be relaxed ahead of Christmas – particularly after London was moved into the highest tier earlier this week.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, is due to announce the outcome of its review of the tier system on Thursday morning, with reports suggesting the number of people living under the toughest restrictions could increase rather than decrease.
More than 23 million people in the north of England, Midlands, Bristol and Kent went straight from the second lockdown into tier 3, and were joined by a further 11 million from London and parts of the south-east on Tuesday. Infections have dropped significantly in most of the affected areas, though rates remain high in certain places and have plateaued elsewhere.
Andy Street, the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands, was one of many regional leaders making the case for their area to move down a tier – and for businesses to be better compensated if there is no change.
He tweeted: “There is a clear case for parts of the West Mids to be leaving T3 when the government makes its decision. But if they are going to be cautious and keep the other parts in T3, then more cash has to be made available. A £3k monthly grant can’t sustain a closed hospitality business.”
In Conservative-controlled Derbyshire, the council leader Barry Lewis has also been making the case for the county to move into tier 2.
He said he had written to Christopher Pincher, the minister who is handling discussions with the east Midlands. If Derbyshire stays in tier 3, he will be demanding “more support for hospitality and tourism”, warning that important parts of Derbyshire’s heritage and high streets could “disappear for good”.
Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, said he fears the government will “overcompensate” in its tiers review after “a mistake” was made in allowing too much mixing over Christmas.
He said there is a “clear case” for parts of Greater Manchester to be moved from tier 3 to tier 2 restrictions, using the criteria that initially kept London out of tier 3.
Reiterating his appeal for “more support” for cities to help them to “come back strong in the new year”, he told BBC Breakfast: “My appeal to the government is: please look at the evidence, please give us the same fair consideration that was given to London in particular.”
Asked on BBC’s Today programme whether the government was likely to lower restrictions anywhere in England, Priti Patel, the home secretary, said: “The fact of the matter is, coronavirus is increasing. We are seeing a rise in infections. Our focus is to protect the public and support public health.”
Source: The Guardian
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