Yorkshire MPs have railed against the Government’s decision to push the area into Tier Three lockdown from this weekend, branding the move ‘disappointing’ and warning it will ‘ruin people’s lives’.
West Yorkshire will be placed under the highest level of lockdown restrictions from midnight on Sunday, affecting around 2million people living in Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield, Kirklees and surrounding areas.
It means pubs, bars and restaurants not serving substantial meals will have to close and casinos, soft play centres, betting shops and car boot sales will also be shut. Mixing of households indoors or outdoors, including in gardens, will also be banned.
Council leaders in region yesterday admitted they had been ‘reluctant’ to accept the move and that they feared for local businesses because the Government was ‘not in the mood to offer more’ money to support them. The leader of Leeds’s council said the city would receive around £60million, but it is not clear how much has been offered to West Yorkshire as a whole.
The anger has been echoed by MPs for the region, both Labour and Conservative, who have branded the move ‘arbitrary’ and damaging and said there is no proof they will work.
Political tensions are bubbling up over the North-South divide in coronavirus lockdowns in England and more than 50 Conservative MPs in ‘red wall’ constituencies are demanding a post-coronavirus economy plan for the north of England and a ‘roadmap out of lockdown’. Nowhere south of the Midlands has yet been put into Tier Three, while 10.2million in the North and Nottinghamshire live under the toughest rules.
Boris Johnson and his Government are resisting calls for a national lockdown and following a patchwork local ‘whack-a-mole’ approach, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today admitted the UK could add a fourth tier to force crisis-hit areas to shut down completely.
WHICH PARTS OF YORKSHIRE FACE TOUGHER RULES?
From midnight on Sunday, the following places will be under Tier Three lockdown rules for at least four weeks:
The rules mean meeting up with people from other households will be banned, pubs and bars must close unless they serve ‘substantial meals’, and people will be advised to avoid travelling around, in or out of the area.
Further restrictions mean soft play centres and casinos must close, car boot sales will be banned and gyms will be strongly advised not to hold group sessions.
Other parts of Yorkshire already in Tier Three include:
And the Department of Health yesterday confirmed that the following parts of the county will be upgraded to Tier Two restrictions, which ban indoor meetings between people from different households:
- East Riding of Yorkshire
These are in addition to the city of York, which is already in Tier Two.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus: ‘I have just made it clear to ministers and Public Health England that I’m completely opposed to this decision.
‘I have no faith in the people making these decisions and I don’t think my constituents have any faith in them either.
‘These are completely arbitrary restrictions that will make absolutely no difference at all. All they will do is further collapse the economy, put people out of work, and down the line lead to house repossessions.
‘This is to control a virus with a mortality rate of 0.7 per cent, it does not justify collapsing the economy at all.
‘The strategy being pursued is flawed and how many people are we putting out of work for this flawed strategy? We are sacrificing people’s jobs and livelihoods willy-nilly.’
Tracy Brabin, Labour’s MP for Batley & Spen, hit out at the Tier Three move in a series of tweets.
She said: ‘I have been absolutely clear that this shouldn’t happen without the funding businesses and workers need to survive and frankly I’d like to see the scientific evidence that Tier 3 works before the government imposes these measures.
‘These measures will not just damage livelihoods but people’s mental health and well being. The government made sure working people got 80 per cent of their wages during the first lockdown, bills haven’t suddenly got cheaper since then.’
Ms Brabin added: ‘This cannot be indefinite. In the absence of a national circuit breaker as in Wales, we need a clear roadmap for what comes next, we need a plan. People will be absolutely inconsolable after the year we’ve had if Christmas is derailed because of inaction by ministers.’
Richard Burgon, the Labour MP for East Leeds, added: ‘Across the country the Govt’s Covid strategy is failing. Putting areas like mine into further local restrictions, and without enough funding, just won’t cut it.
‘It’s time for a national circuit breaker lockdown with proper financial support to get people through this crisis.’
The MPs comments came after council leaders in the region yesterday revealed they were unhappy with the rule change.
Regional health data shows that both cases and deaths are on the increase in West Yorkshire
DOMINIC RAAB HINTS GOVERNMENT COULD INTRODUCE TIER FOUR
Dominic Raab today hinted the Government could introduce a new Tier Four set of even stricter coronavirus restrictions as he refused to rule out a national lockdown.
The Government’s current local lockdown system is based on three tiers but there are fears that even the most draconian rules in Tier Three are not enough to stop the spread of the disease.
A new Tier Four could see non-essential shops told to close and travel limited to getting to work and school.
Mr Raab said the Government is ‘always ready for further measures’ as he insisted ministers intend to stick to their localised approach of cracking down on infections.
But the Foreign Secretary admitted that both Germany and France had also used a strategy of local crackdowns before ultimately being forced into new nation shutdowns.
He would only go so far as saying the Government is ‘striving to avoid’ following the UK’s European neighbours as he resisted imposing a ‘blanket approach or a blunt approach’.
His comments came as local leaders warned it is ‘inevitable’ that Birmingham will soon be moved into Tier Three as ministers warned the nation is heading for a national lockdown ‘by proxy’.
Some 21 million people across England will soon be living in areas subject to Tier Two restrictions while 11 million will be in Tier Three, which means some 32 million – almost 60 per cent of the population – will be in the higher tiers.
As well as Birmingham there are growing fears that London could also be plunged into Tier Three within the next two weeks as infections in the capital continue to rise.
Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of the council in Bradford, said: ‘Let’s be clear, further economic restrictions on Bradford and West Yorkshire are going to be damaging for businesses and jobs,’ the Telegraph & Argus reported.
‘There is a “template” of funding available from Government to support these businesses but I do not think it will be enough,’ she said. ‘Neither were Government in the mood to give us more.
‘Government are seriously underestimating the economic impact of these measures and we in West Yorkshire will challenge them to improve upon them.
‘No one can deny that the infection rates are now very high indeed so action needs to be taken.
‘The Government has a tiered approach to how to manage the infection and for areas with high infections this is the next step in their programme.
‘They have told us they are not contemplating a national lockdown as we saw at the start of the pandemic. So this is the only intervention on offer.’
Leeds City Council’s chief executive Tom Riordan yesterday said a support package of £46.6million had been negotiated with the Government for the region in addition to the Tier 2 funding already agreed.
He said there would also be an additional £12.7 million for testing and tracing.
The move to place West Yorkshire into Tier 3 restrictions was announced at a virtual press conference on Thursday.
A statement from the Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils read: ‘Today, with great reluctance, we have accepted that West Yorkshire will now move into Tier Three (Very High) restrictions, as of 00.01am on Monday 2nd November.
‘The virus spread is now at a critical juncture. Not only are infections rising in our region, particularly amongst the elderly, but we already have evidence that the NHS is starting to struggle to deliver essential elective care,’ it continued.’
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: ‘This is obviously a very difficult decision for anyone to take.
‘We realise the significance of the economic impact that this will have but we’re very mindful of the fact the virus is at a state where we need to take measures, particularly with regard to our hospital admissions.
She added that the financial support agreed was additional to the existing business grant arrangements previously announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak for Tier 2, saying this was a ‘major policy shift’ which justified the length of negotiations with officials and ministers.
STUDIES CONFLICT OVER EXTENT OF ENGLAND’S SECOND WAVE
Confusion over the true scale of England’s second wave was sparked today as one study claimed there are now more than 100,000 new cases every day but another put the figure at only half of that.
A Government-funded study by Imperial College London estimated that 96,000 people are catching Covid-19 in England every day and that the outbreak is doubling in size every nine days, piling more pressure on ministers to act to prevent another crisis.
The ‘Nowcast’ by Cambridge researchers estimates that around 55,000 people are catching the coronavirus every day in England
But research also published today by the University of Cambridge estimates that the true number of daily cases is more like 55,600 and the doubling time 17 days.
The two reports present a confusing picture, with Imperial suggesting London is the worst-hit region in England with an reproduction rate (R) of a staggering 2.86, while Cambridge suggests the capital actually has the slowest outbreak in the country, with an R of 1.04.
Testing by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week suggested that there were 35,200 new cases per day in the week up to October 18, putting it closest to the Cambridge prediction. This is expected to rise again in the next report which will be published tomorrow.
Both teams of scientists say there are major uncertainties in their studies, which are based on statistical modelling of test results. The Cambridge estimates are a couple of weeks out of date because they’re based on deaths, while Imperial’s predictions are ‘interim’ results and may be adjusted in the coming months when combined with longer-term data.
Although the two present conflicting pictures of the outbreak, both show tens of thousands of people are getting infected every day and the epidemic is growing across the south of England, which has largely escaped any tough local lockdowns.
The University of Oxford’s Professor James Naismith, not involved with either study, said: ‘I would emphasise that taking these studies together or individually, we can be almost certain that we will see an increase in the number of deaths per day from Covid-19 over the next few weeks and each death will represent a tragedy for the families and friends left behind.’
Mr Sunak announced earlier this month that businesses in Tier 2 areas would be able to apply for grants worth up to £2,100 a month.
Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said that Leeds’s hospitals were currently caring for 268 Covid patients – a figure higher than in the first wave of the pandemic – and he expected this to keep rising for some days.
The city’s director of public health, Victoria Eaton, said the latest case rate for Leeds is 416.7 per 100,000 people. She said the city was the 35th in England in terms of the seven-day infection rate.
Ms Eaton said a ’cause of concern’ was that, for the first time on Wednesday, the age group with the highest number of cases was the 30 to 44-year-olds rather than the 16 to 29-year-olds. She said the situation is ‘incredibly challenging at the moment’.
Bradford’s case rate was 483.5 cases per 100,000 of the population, one of the highest in the country.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier on Thursday: ‘We continue to see a worrying rise in cases right across the country, and it is clear decisive action is needed.
‘We have agreed with local leaders to move more areas into the High Local Covid Alert Level this week.
‘These restrictions are challenging for us all, but it is only by working together and following the rules that we will bring down the rates of infection.
‘A failure to act now will only lead to longer disruption and greater economic damage. I want to thank everyone who is playing their part to break the chains of transmission across the country. We will beat this virus, but we must stick together as we enter the winter months.’
Leaders in West Yorkshire said they had refused to accept the harshest bracket of lockdown until they were given assurances about what support would be offered to businesses.
Bradford Council’s Ms Hinchcliffe said the ‘unflinching’ Government had told council leaders it would be a ‘template package’ with no room for negotiation.
However, the Bradford leader, who is also the chairwoman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme she would not describe negotiations as a ‘stand-off’.
She said: ‘It is clear from our conversations so far that Government are unflinching in their resolve to put Bradford and West Yorkshire into Tier 3.
‘Our local residents and our local businesses need certainty about whether we are going into Tier Three or not.’
The political debate is taking place against a backdrop of dramatically rising hospital admissions for Covid-19 with NHS figures showing the Yorkshire and Humber region with the fastest growing rates in the England.
Earlier this week, the trust which runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital said only essential operations will go ahead after the number of Covid-19 patients being treated went beyond the number treated at the peak of the virus’s first wave.
Other hospitals, including Bradford Royal Infirmary, have reported similarly high figures.
An earlier official statement on the talks from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, issued on Wednesday evening, said: ‘The latest data on infections and hospital admissions shows a continued rise, and we have repeated our calls to Government that further local action needs to be taken, including strengthening community engagement and test and trace.
‘There will be further discussions with Government in the coming days. We are absolutely committed to implementing the most effective measures to protect the people and economy of West Yorkshire.’