Greater Manchester will be placed in the highest tier of the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions after the national lockdown ends, while Liverpool has been rewarded for its falling infection rates with a tier two placing.
UnitedCity, the think tank backed by former footballer Gary Neville set up to drive Manchester’s economic recovery from the pandemic, said it was “devastated but not surprised” that Manchester had been placed in the strictest tier of restrictions.
Under the Government’s revised system, shops can reopen in tier three areas but hospitality businesses must remain closed.
A statement from the group, which counts Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby among its members, said: “This news will come as a massive blow to hospitality, leisure, culture, events and sports businesses based in the region, who have already suffered enormously thanks to the Government’s constant shifting of what the parameters of the tiers are.
“For restrictions as harsh as the ‘new’ tier three ones to be placed upon us does feel somewhat rancorous.”
Manchester had endured tough restrictions prior to the national lockdown and local leaders had hoped that decreasing infection rates in recent weeks might have afforded the city region more freedom once the lockdown ends next Wednesday.
However, UnitedCity conceded that being placed into tier two “wouldn’t have made a significant amount of difference”, accusing the Government of “moving the goalposts and essentially making the ‘new’ tier two the ‘old’ tier three”.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham accepted that, while Greater Manchester’s infection rate is decreasing, it is still significantly higher than the England average.
However, he branded Whitehall’s decision not to provide additional business support to areas placed in tier three as “completely wrong” and called on the Government to revisit its policy.
“The new tier three will hit the hospitality sector extremely hard. While there are grants for businesses forced to close, there is no extra support for business which supply them like security, catering and cleaning.
“The effect of this policy decision will be to level down the economies of city regions across the North. It is unfair and the opposite of what the Government has promised to do.”
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson welcomed Whitehall’s decision to place the city region into tier two.
He said: “If someone had told me six weeks ago Liverpool would be in tier two by the start of December, I’d have seen that as a great result.”
Under tier two restrictions, restaurants can reopen alongside bars, as long as they serve “substantial meals”.
While praising Liverpool’s willingness to accept the tough restrictions it was placed under in October, Anderson urged caution moving forward.
“Covid-19 can bounce back, as it did so devastatingly after the summer holidays. We must remain vigilant,” he said.
Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company also welcomed the news but, like Burnham, called on the Government to provide more support for the beleaguered retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
Elsewhere in the region, Lancashire had asked the Government to place part of the county, including Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster, Chorley, South Ribble, Ribble Valley and West Lancashire, into tier two with Hyndburn, Rossendale, Burnley, Pendle and Preston – where infection rates are higher – placed into tier three.
However, the whole county, including Blackpool, has been placed into the highest tier of restrictions.
Blackburn with Darwen has also been placed into tier three while Cumbria, Warrington and Cheshire join the Liverpool City Region in tier two.
The tier allocations will be reviewed every fortnight, according to the Government.