Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed large parts of the North of England are heading towards Tier 3 lockdown, as Covid-19 infection rates continue to soar.
At present, only Liverpool and Lancashire have been placed under a ‘very high’ local Covid alert (Tier 3), but several regions risk being subject to the tougher restrictions.
Ongoing talks with the North
Speaking in the House of Commons on 19 October, the Health Secretary updated MPs on the places in the UK which have been put into Tier 3, and went on to announce a broader list of areas where infection rates are rising.
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Mr Hancock confirmed that talks about moving these areas into the very high alert level (Tier 3) have now begun.
Discussions with local leaders in South and West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teeside are ongoing.
Addressing MPs, Mr Hancock said, “Following the successful introduction of measures in Liverpool and Lancashire, talks are continuing this afternoon led by the Communities Secretary with Greater Manchester, and this week further discussions are planned with South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teesside."
The government is also “working hard” to secure a Tier 3 lockdown deal with Greater Manchester, amid fears the region’s intensive care capacity could be overwhelmed with Covid patients within a week.
Currently, the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care in the region is around 40 per cent of that seen at the peak of the first wave, while hospital admissions are doubling every nine days.
Government will intervene
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said talks with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and local leaders were ongoing, but if an agreement can not be reached, the government will need to intervene “in order to protect hospitals and save the lives of residents.”
Leaders in Greater Manchester have so far resisted moving into the highest level of restrictions, which would see pubs and bars ordered to close.
Ministers have since insisted that Greater Manchester’s Covid alert level will end within days, either with a deal which could see tens of millions of pounds in extra funding for the region, or with harsh restrictions imposed from Westminster.
A range of support has been offered to the region, including additional resources for local councils, greater involvement in contact tracing, and potential assistance from the military.
Liverpool City Region received a £44 million package as part of its Tier 3 measures, but Greater Manchester is calling for more extensive support, including a furlough scheme to fund paying 80 per cent of the wages of affected workers.