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More job losses feared as 27 million people face tougher lockdowns

MORE people are feared to be in the pipeline for redundancy as 27 million across England face tougher coronavirus restrictions from Saturday.

London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 of the government’s new alert scheme.

These areas will be subject to stricter measures including a ban on households mixing indoors, including in homes, pubs and restaurants.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement means that more than half of England’s population will be under Tier 2 “high” alert or Tier 3 “very high” restrictions.

The new tiered system only came into effect on Wednesday, and the decision to recategorise areas so soon indicates growing concerns about the speed at which the virus is again spreading.

Today, 18,980 new coronavirus cases and 138 new deaths related to the virus were reported in the UK, adding to similar figures reported every day this week.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told City Hall that the capital’s move to Tier 2 is based on “expert public-health and scientific advice about what is necessary to save lives” — but stressed that he was pushing for extra financial support from the government.

“Nobody wants to see more restrictions – but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners’ lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers,” he said.

Around 3,640 pubs and 7,556 restaurants in London alone will be hit by the ban on households mixing indoors – but will not be eligible for government support available to premises which have been ordered to close.

Labour MPs voiced concern for jobs as businesses struggle to comply with more regulations as well as having fewer customers.

The party has been calling for the government to follow Sage scientists’ advice to impose a two- to three-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown to tackle the virus and reduce the daily toll of Covid-related deaths.

PM Boris Johnson has said that he was ruling nothing out but that he wished to avoid the “misery of another national lockdown.”

Wes Streeting, the shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: “With Tier 2 restrictions looming for London, so many businesses are facing the prospect of being open in name only: not eligible for support they need, but no customers either.

“The government’s failure to act now with a national circuit breaker will cost us more in the long run.”

Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton Rupa Huq said that her west London constituency was now the capital’s “top coronavirus borough” as the rate had more than doubled in the past week.

She said: “I am unconvinced this tinkering is really enough. As Sage advise, to stop it spreading like wildfire, a short, sharp circuit breaker is now needed.”

Liverpool City Region, comprising 1.6 million people, remains the only area currently in Tier 3. 

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has been resisting following the Liverpool region into Tier 3, which includes the closure of pubs and bars unless they can operate as restaurants.

Leaders of Greater Manchester and Downing Street officials were in talks today, but reached no agreement on new restrictions.

Later in the day, Mr Burnham accused the government of treating the north-west England as a “sacrificial lamb.”

He said that deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam had suggested that a nationwide lockdown was the “only certain thing to work.”

Mr Burnham said: “But the government told us this morning it is unwilling to do that because of the damage it will do to the national economy. And yet that is what it wants to impose on the north-west.

“So that was our conclusion from the Number 10 meeting this morning: [the government] is willing to try to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try to save them elsewhere.

“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.”

Labour and Co-operative MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell said that moving the area into Tier 3 lockdown would “devastate” businesses.

“Without any proper economic support this will devastate many businesses and lead to high levels of job losses,” she said.

Since the start of lockdown in March, scores of businesses — mainly in retail, hospitality and tourism — have announced plans that would potentially make around a quarter of a million people redundant.

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