City leaders issue dire Covid-19 economic warning for Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester

29 September 2020, 10:28 | Updated: 29 September 2020, 10:29

A woman handing out leaflets promoting the new NHS Covid-19 app in Liverpool
A woman handing out leaflets promoting the new NHS Covid-19 app in Liverpool. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

New coronavirus restrictions in the north of England have been labelled "contradictory and confusing" with a dire economic warning of "mass redundancies" and "boarded up shops" issued by city officials.

Leaders in Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester have written a letter to the government saying tighter restrictions on mixing and a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants will destroy businesses.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: "We can see quite clearly that this is counter-productive. There seems to be no scientific evidence to suggest that it [10pm curfew] mitigates the risk of transmission.

"We are already seeing people leaving the venue at 10pm, walking across the road... going to off-licences, supermarkets and picking up alcohol and then going off to other socially engaged experiences."

In the letter, they said: "The stark reality is that these businesses are facing the prospect of a complete decimation in trade, not just in the short term but as we look ahead to the sector's traditional lifeblood of the Christmas period and almost certainly continuing into spring/summer of next year which we know with certainty will result in mass market failure, huge levels of redundancies and depleted and boarded up high streets."

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "We need to find a way to adjust the restrictions to ensure a balance in protecting public health and the need to protect businesses, many of which are teetering on the brink.

"Liverpool is a city which has built its revival on the leisure and hospitality sectors and it is a massive contributor not just to employment but also to business rates which fund vital local services.

"The vast majority of our businesses have responded in the right way, investing heavily in providing safe, compliant environments and a place for people to enjoy themselves safely.

"The inspections we have carried out show a very high level of compliance.

"People in restaurants are in COVID-safe environments with high levels of sanitisation and appropriate spacing.

"Forcing people to leave at 10pm runs the risk that they then go on together to a house in a large group which does not have the same measures in place."

People socially distancing queueing to enter Baltic Market in Liverpool
People socially distancing queueing to enter Baltic Market in Liverpool. Picture: PA

Tougher restrictions banning people from mixing with other households in any setting will be introduced from midnight tonight in large parts of north-east England due to a continued sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Existing measures - for Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham - are being tightened at the request of local councils because the virus is still spreading, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

It had been illegal for two households to mix inside or in a garden, but it was only guidance that they should not meet at public venues, including restaurants and pubs.

The measures will come into force from midnight on Wednesday and will be enforceable with fines, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan warned jobs that "don't fit" with Coronavirus may "take a long time" to recover or never come back.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the new restrictions in the Commons yesterday.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes criticised the Health Secretary for the way the announcement on Covid-19 measures in the north east was made, claiming it was announced without the local authority's knowledge.

The leader of Gateshead Council also said he was not warned that new restrictions were to be imposed.

Martin Gannon said: "It was announced in the House of Commons and we were not told beforehand that announcement was going to be made.

"However, we had had discussions last week that led us to believe that this was going to happen. We just weren't pre-warned that it was actually going to happen. It didn't help.

"I got inundated with telephone calls and emails last night from people asking, 'Can we do this, can we do that?' and actually I didn't have the precise wording of the regulations in front of us.

"So it is a bit chaotic the way these things happen, Nick (Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader) was quite right to be annoyed about that."

Meanwhile the number of deaths involving Covid-19 registered in England and Wales has risen for the second week in a row.

A total of 139 deaths registered in the week ending September 18 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up from 99 deaths in the week to September 11, and 78 deaths in the week to September 4.

Registered deaths involving Covid-19 increased in six of the nine English regions in the week ending September 18, according to the ONS.

The six regions were: north-west England (39, up nine on the previous week's total); the West Midlands (15, up eight); London (13, up seven); Yorkshire & the Humber (21, up seven); north-east England (eight, up five); and the East Midlands (14, up four).

The number fell in two regions: south-east England (11, down one on the previous week's total) and south-west England (five, down two). It was unchanged in Eastern England on eight deaths.

In Wales the weekly total increased by four, from one to five.