In a statement to MPs, Boris Johnson confirmed the UK government’s new three-tier system that is designed to categorise all local authorities in England as either medium, high or very high levels of coronavirus.
The new COVID alert system includes escalating levels of restrictions, with the medium tier subject to nationwide measures such as the 10pm curfew and rule of six. However, the high alert level will apply a strict standardised set of existing lockdown measures which include bans on indoor and outdoor mixing.
The very high alert will implement even tougher measures still, including the closure of all bars and pubs. The only change between the announcement and earlier media leaks was that local leaders have been given some discretion to decide where to place the baseline, for example keeping restaurants and gyms open.
Crucially, however, following the announcement it has become clear that the Prime Minister has failed to win the support of northern leaders, with several MPs and governing bodies threatening to take legal action over the possible forced closure of the hospitality industry.
In a joint letter published over the weekend, five MPs with seats in Manchester stated that transmission of coronavirus in hospitality settings represents a “very small proportion of infection rates”.
The letter continued “We are concerned that closing regulated premises will not only lead to gatherings being pushed underground, but won’t have a sizeable impact on the virus transition rates. Yet as you are all well aware it would have a devastating impact on jobs, livelihoods and businesses in our area”.
This stand-off has thrown the government’s aim to publish a full map of the new alert systems into doubt ahead of a Commons vote this week.
The Prime Minster said that the “weeks and months ahead will continue to test the mettle of this country”, adding that “this is not how we want to live our lives”.
The question still remains whether the new alert system and implementation can bring the virus under control and pull the country back from the brink. For a business perspective on the announcement we spoke to insolvency practitioner Steven Mason, who said: “There is a very real fear that these new lockdown measures could have a devastating impact on the hospitality industry. Especially across the north west, the industry feels like it is being unfairly targeted, with many claiming there is little scientific evidence to prove a high level of transmissions in these settings.”
Steven added: “Many pubs and restaurants may regard this as the final blow after bearing the brunt of severe COVID restrictions since the spring. Over the coming months, it appears inevitable that insolvencies will multiply across the sector.”
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