Liverpool council leaders call for another national lockdown as Covid cases soar

3 January 2021, 07:01 | Updated: 3 January 2021, 12:40

By Megan White

Liverpool's council leaders have called for another national lockdown to contain the new strain of Covid-19 and prevent a "catastrophe".

The city's acting mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon, and the Labour-run city council's cabinet say the speed of the rise in coronavirus cases, driven by the virulent new strain, have reached "alarming levels" and urgent action is now required to save lives and the NHS.

The new strain of Covid-19 transmits faster and is most prevalent in London and the South East, where hospitals have become stretched.

Read more: First Oxford Covid-19 vaccines arrive in hospitals ready for rollout

It is believed the strain is spreading from south to north, leading to increasing pressure on the NHS.

Cases in Liverpool have almost trebled in the past two weeks to 350 per 100,000, despite the city successfully leading on the national pilot for community testing which led to it being the first city to be taken out of Tier 3 and into Tier 2.

Speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday, Cllr Simon said the council felt that "if things are left it’s inevitable there will be a lockdown at some point, and what we’re trying to do is actually react now rather than at crisis point."

She told Tom Swarbrick: “What we feel needs to happen, based on our experience of what’s happened so far, is that there does need to be a national lockdown, that we have to work that alongside the mass testing programme that we already have in the city, and that has been working well.

Read more: Covid-19: UK records new record high of 57,725 cases in 24 hours

“With those two things and the mass vaccination programme we’ve got with two vaccines now on offer, and if that could be given to the city to roll out, we could do that very quickly and in a much more effective way to get those vaccinations out.

“We think if things are left it’s inevitable there will be a lockdown at some point, and what we’re trying to do is actually react now rather than at crisis point so we can bring those numbers down further and we don’t put that strain on our hospitals.

“As you said, they’re under pressure, but they’re not at crisis point in Liverpool at the moment and we don’t want them to be.”

Discussing the ongoing school closure row, Cllr Simon said the council was hoping to work with trade unions and headteachers "to support them in the best way we can as a local authority."

The acting mayor said: “We’re still in negotiations with the trade unions, the headteachers, etc, in respect of Liverpool.

Read more: Covid-19: UK records new record high of 57,725 cases in 24 hours

“We’re in Tier 3 at the moment and obviously our rates are a lot lower than they are in other parts of the country, but obviously they have trebled in the last couple of weeks.

“We’ve heard what the Government has said this morning clearly, about primary schools in particular, but we’re looking at working with those headteachers and the trade unions to support them in the best way we can as a local authority.”

In an earlier statement from the city council, from Cllr Simon and Cabinet Member for Public Health, Cllr Paul Brant, they said: "It is clear that the country is now at a crossroads with Covid-19.

"The stark reality is that today this virulent new strain of the virus is very much on the rise and we need to act now to prevent a crisis that will unleash even more pain and anguish.

"We need the government to listen to those at the frontline, both in our hospitals and frontline services.

"We as a nation can cope with a lockdown. We have before and we can again. The quicker we move into one now, the more lives will be saved and the quicker a recovery will be.

"Yes, there will be pain for our retail and hospitality sectors, but they want long term security and a strong recovery and a lockdown provides both.

"An additional package of welfare and economic support will also be needed, especially to protect the most vulnerable."

The councillors said it was "self-evident" the tier system is not working to curb the virus.

They added: "London's rates are a huge cause for concern and we will soon see those rates here and across the rest of the country.

"Let's get ahead of the curve and act now. We all know too well the dire consequences and costs if we don't, particularly to the most vulnerable in our communities.

"Millions of Britons have made many sacrifices these past 10 months and none of us want to see those efforts go to waste. Much progress has been made to limit the virus, but we can only do so much as individuals.

"The country is currently facing a catastrophe that will undo much of what has been achieved if we do not act as one."

The current mayor of the city, Joe Anderson, is on police bail on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

A Government spokeswoman said: "We strengthened our measures by introducing Tier 4 two weeks ago, based on advice from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and it is vital everyone continues to follow the rules to reduce transmission in their areas, save lives and protect our NHS.

"We keep the spread of Covid-19 under constant review based on latest medical and scientific data and have been clear we will not hesitate to take actions necessary to protect local communities."