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Lancashire expected to become next area put under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions
16 October 2020, 07:46
A decision to place Lancashire into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions is expected to made by Government and local officials within hours.
It is understood council leaders are close to agreeing on a set of new restrictive measures that would likely see pubs and bars shut - unless they can provide substantial meals - and a ban on households mixing in most settings.
Talks are ongoing over a £50 million financial support package for the county being demanded by local leaders.
Reports from meetings that took place yesterday suggest ministers are telling council leaders and mayors "there is no money" to provide the extra funds - a claim hotly disputed.
Explained: What does tier 3 lockdown mean?
Earlier this week, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver conceded that it was "inevitable" the area would be subject to stricter measures in the coming days and weeks.
The refusal thus far to provide support has raised questions over whether the Government is treating towns and cities in the North of England differently to the South.
It follows a heated debate between local leaders in Greater Manchester and Government officials over the financial support being offered to businesses and the lowest paid.
Yesterday, regional Mayor Andy Burnham accused ministers of making the North of England a "sacrificial lamb" over their attempt to impose experimental measures that leading scientists say are unlikely to bring down the rate of infection.
"I've said it may be that we need to look at a national circuit-break as preferable to this unfunded, risky regional lockdown strategy," he told reporters.
"We have to protect the health of the nation but let's do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn't make sense in the real world."
Mayor Burnham has backed calls for a national 'circuit breaker' lockdown to curb the spread of the virus - a measure supported by Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and many high-ranking scientists advising the Government.
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock responded by saying local leaders in Greater Manchester should put "party politics aside" and agree extra measures for the area to control the virus.
Mr Hancock said he believes the situation is "severe" in region, stating "we must act".
Meanwhile, London officials have agreed to enter Tier 2 restrictions from midnight on Friday, meaning tough new measures on socialising indoors with other households.
There has been mixed reaction from the leaders of 32 borough councils, with some supporting the move as necessary and others, usually in areas with low infection rates, claiming blanket restrictions across all areas is unfair.