UK

London lockdown on a knife edge: Tier decision ‘could go either way’

London‘s lockdown future was balanced on a knife edge today as ministers weighed up whether to place the capital in Tier 2 or 3. 

Boris Johnson is under pressure from his own party, an army of business leaders and Sadiq Khan not to impose the harshest restrictions on the city, fearing they could throttle the economic engine of the UK. 

The Prime Minister will tomorrow carve up Britain into three ‘alert levels’ of varying strictness for when the national lockdown ends on December 2.   

Londoners have seized upon evidence of the city’s falling infection rate, which is below the national average, to bolster their demands to dodge Tier 3.

Tier 3 would ban households mixing indoors or outdoors and limit pubs and restaurants to selling just takeaways.

Whereas proponents argue looser Tier 2 restrictions would breathe some life back into the economy as pubs could open if they serve a substantial meal. 

Hotelier Mark Fuller, who owns the popular celebrity haunt Karma Sanctum in Soho, said that putting the capital in Tier 3 from December will see 50 per cent of hospitality businesses go to the wall.

Londoners have seized upon evidence of the city’s falling infection rate, which is below the national average, to bolster their demands to dodge Tier 3

Boris Johnson is under pressure from both his own party not to impose the harshest restrictions on the city, fearing they could throttle the economic engine of the UK

Boris Johnson is under pressure from both his own party not to impose the harshest restrictions on the city, fearing they could throttle the economic engine of the UK

As Londoners anxiously awaited tomorrow’s announcement, a City Hall source told the Daily Mail that London could go either way and is currently ‘in the balance’.

A Conservative source told MailOnline people are ‘worried’ London could be put into Tier 3, but believed Tier 2 is the most likely course of action.

They said: ‘The capital’s rate of infection is significantly below the levels other cities had when they entered Tier 3.’ 

The Prime Minister, himself a former mayor of the city, remained tight-lipped today on which tier the capital will enter when grilled at PMQs. 

His successor in City Hall Mr Khan and the Conservative mayoral candidate for next year’s election, Shaun Bailey, are both lobbying for the capital to be put into the middle tier. 

Mr Bailey said Tier 3 would be a ‘disaster’, while Mr Khan reckoned it would result in a ‘hammer blow’ to businesses. 

Writing in the Evening Standard, the Mayor said: ‘London’s unique economic ecosystem of bars, restaurants, clubs and cultural venues helps make us the greatest city in the world but they’ve been through an unbelievably tough year. 

‘If ministers put London in Tier 3 it would mean them closing again throughout Christmas and New Year — another hammer blow that many would not survive.’ 

Shaun Bailey

Sadiq Khan

Both Mr Khan (right) and his Conservative mayoral rival (left) in next year’s election Shaun Bailey are lobbying for the capital to be put into the middle tier

Mr Khan, who agitated for stricter restrictions in the capital before the November lockdown, pointed to data showing cases in London lower than other areas expected to enter Tier 2.  

The infection rate is falling in nine London boroughs, and the worst-hit boroughs are still outside the top 100 in the league table of 317 authorities in England.

The seven-day average in London was down to 197.2 per 100,000 residents yesterday from 198.9 on Saturday. The national average is currently 235.  

Some Tory MPs are even agitating for London to avoid the top two tiers entirely. 

Andrew Rosindell, Tory MP for Romford, today told Mr Johnson that if the capital were to enter Tier 2 or 3, it would have ‘devastating consequences for jobs, businesses, livelihoods, and of course physical and mental health’. 

He called for the Government to publish a cost-benefit analysis of restrictions, which he warned could be even more damaging than the health impacts of the virus itself. 

Former Tory party leader Mr Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green in north east London, said: ‘London must be put into Tier 1… London is dominant in the economy and we need it to get back to work immediately.’  

Yesterday business leaders in the capital lined up to warn the toughest restrictions would launch a wrecking ball through the city’s economy.

Richard Caring, who owns The Ivy, Annabel’s, Bill’s and Soho House, said rules to suppress Covid-19 were actually a ‘killer’ for businesses and are being imposed ‘without a great deal of thought’.   

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UKHospitality, said she hopes London ‘enters as low a tier as possible, within the realms of achievable public health objectives’.

She added: ‘What is certain is that the higher the tier, the harder it will be for our businesses in London to survive. 

‘We still have not seen any evidence that hospitality venues – which have invested great time effort and money to making their spaces Covid-secure – are a problem area in terms of infection, so it seems unfair and arbitrary that hospitality is being dealt such a harsh hand.’

Anger at ‘finger in the air’ criteria to decide which areas go into Tiers one, two and three as Boris Johnson’s Cabinet prepares to sign off new system amid Tory mutiny over fears NO-ONE will end up in lowest level

By James Tapsfield for MailOnline

A Tory mutiny is gathering pace today as Boris Johnson’s Cabinet prepares to sign off local lockdown Tiers for England – with fears almost no-one will end up in the lowest level.

The PM is facing growing complaints about the ‘finger in the air’ criteria being used to make the crucial decisions for after the blanket squeeze lapses on December 2, as well as the massive impact on businesses and wider health.

Conservative MPs are threatening to oppose the new system in a vote next week if it is national ‘lockdown by another name’. 

They are warning that areas with low infection rates must not be subject to tougher rules because of nearby urban hotspots – while others complain that the metrics being used to allocate Tiers are vague, rather than specific number thresholds.

Ministers are expected to base the decisions on up-to-date case data being presented today, with the announcement on the Tiers due to be made tomorrow. 

Labour has refused to say it will vote in favour of the rules next week, but looks unlikely to oppose them outright – meaning they should go through.

But a huge revolt would inflict another damaging blow to Mr Johnson’s authority as he tries to ‘reset’ his government after the meltdown that saw Dominic Cummings ousted. 

The areas most likely to have Tier Three rules imposed are East Sussex, Herefordshire and Milton Keynes, which have suffered the biggest spikes in coronavirus cases in the last week.  

Public Health England statistics show infection rates — the number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people — shot up by at least 50 per cent in all three areas in the seven-day spell ending November 15.

Also in Mr Hancock and Prof Chris Whitty’s sights are Kent, parts of Essex and London.  

Meanwhile, the areas that saw the greatest falls in cases were almost all in Tier Three in the North West, adding further evidence that the local lockdown system appears to work.

Warrington, Oldham, Wigan and Blackburn, all of which suffered huge numbers of infections during England’s second wave, saw declines of 30 per cent or more.

Liverpool and other previous Tier Three areas have been pushing for their status to be downgraded, in recognition of the progress against the virus.  

The infection profile of the UK in mid-September

The infection profile of the UK in mid-November

These charts show how the infection profile has changed across the UK between mid September (left) and mid-November

Downing Street yesterday acknowledged that the new system of tiers is 'tougher' than the one that was in place in October

Downing Street yesterday acknowledged that the new system of tiers is ‘tougher’ than the one that was in place in October

Covid-19 cases have fallen across most of the North of England since lockdown was imposed, but they are rising in a corner of the South East. The percentage change is based on comparing data from the week ending November 15 to the week ending November 8. It comes as the Government prepares to unveil its tier system

Covid-19 cases have fallen across most of the North of England since lockdown was imposed, but they are rising in a corner of the South East. The percentage change is based on comparing data from the week ending November 15 to the week ending November 8. It comes as the Government prepares to unveil its tier system

The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said

The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said

Boris Johnson was facing a mounting backlash over his new Covid tiers last night – as it emerged the whole of England could be placed into the top two levels of restrictions

Boris Johnson was facing a mounting backlash over his new Covid tiers last night – as it emerged the whole of England could be placed into the top two levels of restrictions

Downing Street declined to comment in detail ahead of tomorrow’s decision, but pointed out that the Prime Minister warned on Monday that ‘many more places will be in higher tiers than was previously the case.’ 

The Cabinet met this morning, although the main topic of business was the Chancellor’s Spending Review. 

Critics have accused ministers of failing to be transparent about the precise criteria used to decide tier placings.

Downing Street said five key factors would be used: Covid cases across all ages; cases among over-60s; the rate at which cases are rising or falling; the number of positive tests per 100,000 people; and pressures on the local NHS.

WHAT ARE THE NEW TIER RULES? 

Tier One will be the default and measures will not be allowed to get more relaxed in any part of England:

  • Rule of six and social distancing apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors;
  • Pubs and restaurants are allowed to open with table service only and an 11pm closing time.

Tier Two:

  • People from separate households cannot meet indoors and the rule of six applies outside;
  • Pubs must close unless operating as restaurants, with alcoholic drinks served alongside meals;

Tier Three will be the toughest level of restrictions and rules have been tightened up to make them stricter than before. All of the Tier Two rules apply as well as the following:

  • Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys must close;
  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close except for takeaway;
  • Shops and hairdressers and salons will be allowed to remain open; 
  • Groups of six will be allowed to meet outdoors only; 
  • Crowds at live events will be banned;
  • People should avoid travelling out of, or into, Tier Three areas unless it is unavoidable.

But No10 has given no details on how indicators will be used – and economic factors won’t be taken into account. 

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh told MailOnline there should be more precise criteria for deciding what Tiers are applied. ‘There is no assessment. it is all finger in the air… ”that seems a way to do it”,’ Mr Fysh said.

Kent MPs including Tom Tugendhat and former Cabinet minister Greg Clark have written to the PM urging him to set Tiers at borough level rather than across the whole county.

‘Kent is a vast and varied county that showcases the best of our country,’ the letter said. 

‘We must allow businesses to prosper and not be held back by restrictions not suitable for their area.’ 

One rebel source said almost 100 Conservative MPs had raised concerns about the continuing damage to the economy from restrictions that are due to last until April.

Tory chief whip Mark Spencer is said to have been deluged with messages from MPs warning that he cannot count on their vote if their constituency is placed into one of the higher tiers. 

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said he was likely to vote against the measures when they are brought to the Commons early next week.

And he warned that the new restrictions would be ‘extremely damaging’ to firms already struggling to deal with the impact of two lockdowns.

He added: ‘My concern is that huge numbers of businesses particularly, but not exclusively, in the hospitality sector have been losing money under Tier Two already, and there is a very tight limit to how much longer they can go on doing that without seeing even bigger levels of unemployment, and, particularly, youth unemployment coming towards us.’

The number of Tory rebels planning to vote against the tiered system next week is expected to be far greater than the 32 who voted against the national lockdown.

Mr Johnson will speak to the 1922 Committee on Wednesday night in effort to marshal the restive backbenchers, according to The Times.

Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said: ‘The mood music seems to suggest that everybody is going up one tier – it’s going to be worse than before. We will have gone from lockdown to lockdown by another name.’

Downing Street yesterday acknowledged that the new system of tiers is ‘tougher’ than the one that was in place in October.

The hospitality sector warned that the proposals were so restrictive that many firms would not survive, particularly if they lose their lucrative Christmas trade.

Tier One is the only level where people are able to meet with those from other households indoors.

In Tier Two, socialising among groups of up to six is allowed, but only outdoors. In the new restrictions, pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to serve alcohol to customers also buying a ‘substantial meal’.

In Tier Three, pubs and restaurants will have to close for everything except takeaways.

Nick Mackenzie, boss of Greene King, Britain’s biggest pub chain, said: ‘My concern is much of the country will be in Tier Two or Three and that will be devastating for the industry.’

And Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin, who runs 875 pubs, said: ‘We will be in an effective lockdown in Tiers Two and Three, and will be unprofitable.’

While Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘It seems the Government has chosen to inflict unnecessary pain and irreversible damage on our sector without publishing evidence…’

Downing Street yesterday rejected suggestions that the new system would be another form of lockdown, pointing out that shops, gyms and hairdressers would all be able to reopen in all tiers. The PM’s spokesman said ministers had been clear that ‘given the need to suppress the virus, there will be more areas in higher tiers.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday told MPs he was hopeful that the tier system, coupled with mass testing, would avoid the need for a third lockdown.

Mr Hancock said there would be a shift to an emphasis on ‘personal responsibility’ rather than social distancing restrictions after Easter once the vaccine has reached the most vulnerable.  


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button