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Three tiers for a Tory shambles

MPs left out of briefings, northern regions fighting for full funding, test and trace still a disaster

LABOUR slammed the Tory “shambles” around the launch of England’s new three-tier lockdown system today, as northern leaders warned that the region will struggle without full financial support.

The PM announced that pubs, bars, leisure centres, gyms, arcades, betting shops and casinos will close in the six boroughs of Liverpool when the region is put into “very high alert” – Tier 3 – from tomorrow, when all three tiers take effect.

At Tier 3, social mixing will be prohibited indoors and in private gardens. Pubs and bars will be closed unless they operate as restaurants, while travel in and out of the areas will be advised against.

In the Commons, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson to accept that the Chancellor’s new Job Support Scheme “simply won’t work for many thousands of people, particularly those on the minimum wage” as businesses lock down.

He said he is “deeply sceptical” that the PM’s new measures will work to lower new infection rates.

A number of MPs also complained that they were given just minutes to prepare for phone briefings with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said she got her invite “five minutes after the meeting had started.”

And Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Worsley & Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley said they were not invited to the Greater Manchester briefing at all.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Yet again, when we most need clarity and a clear message all we get from this government is more chaos and incompetence.”

Liverpool’s Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson was included in the Health Secretary’s phone briefing for MPs in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas today.

The Labour MP said he told Mr Hancock that financial support needs to be at the level it was the first time round — in line with the furlough scheme which originally paid 80 per cent of wages but which ends on October 31.

“Measures so far simply don’t go far enough to help families or economy survive,” he said.

Mr Johnson said that most areas that are already subject to local restrictions – such as Leicester, the north-east, Greater Manchester and south Yorkshire – will “automatically move into the high-alert level” of Tier 2.

He said that due to rising coronavirus infection rates, Nottinghamshire, east and west Cheshire and a small area of High Peak in Derbyshire will also move into Tier 2.

At this level, household mixing will be banned indoors but support bubbles — close support networks between two households — will still be permitted.

Tier 1 is “medium level” — applying to most of England — with familiar measures including the rule of six and closure of hospitality at 10pm.

At all levels, shops, schools and universities will remain open.

Mr Johnson said there will be a “sunset clause” for Tier 3 interventions so that measures are reviewed every four weeks.

He also promised that about £1 billion of “new financial support” will be provided to local authorities and that Tier 3 areas would receive funds for local test-and-trace systems and enforcement.

Agreement had been reached with leaders in Merseyside on the approach, he said, and that “engagement with other leaders” in the north-west, the north-east and Yorkshire & Humber was continuing.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “The PM must give all areas under restrictions full financial support. Anything less will see them levelled down.”

Sheffield City Region mayor and Labour MP Dan Jarvis said: “We cannot afford this without additional support — otherwise we will languish in local restrictions with no clear way out.”

The regulations will be voted on in the Commons on Tuesday. 

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