Greater Manchester Is Reportedly Going To Be Placed In A "Tier 2" Lockdown After Local Politicians Argued Pubs Should Not Be Shut
The PM is set to announce a raft of new Covid-19 measures this afternoon (PA)
Greater Manchester is reportedly going to avoid the harshest new coronavirus restorations after its local politicians argued pubs and restaurants should not be shut to try and reduce the spike in infections.
But there is anger from MPs over the way the measures have been announced, after a series of calls with health secretary Matt Hancock this morning were described as “an absolute shambles”.
It comes after the government was put under pressure to show the evidence for putting sections of the North of England under the strictest of its three-tiered system to try and deal with the soaring number of positive cases.
Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West, confirmed that ministers had relented and agreed Greater Manchester would be “placed in Tier 2 with household restrictions on meeting indoors in any setting, but not outdoors”.
A Tier 3 outcome would have seen the closure of all hospitality, which is expected to be placed on Merseyside when Boris Johnson unveils the full system later.
McMahon tweeted: “Pubs serving food remain open. Oldham will be removed from its enhanced lockdown measures and brought into line with Greater Manchester at last”.
And his colleague Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton & Reddish, said: “A very sensible decision to put Greater Manchester into Tier 2.
“We will have a simplified set of rules: no social mixing in any indoor settings, rule of 6 in public outdoor settings; tougher enforcement for non-Covid-secure businesses and hospitality remains open.”
But shadow foreign secretary and MP for Wigan Lisa Nandy said she had not been invited to the briefing with Mr Hancock.
"Just learnt Greater Manchester will be placed into tier 2 restrictions via twitter,” she posted on social media.
“Apparently there was a government briefing for Greater Manchester MPs but I can't provide details because I wasn't invited.
“I suspect this is because they don't know where Wigan is. What an absolute shambles.”
And Charlotte Nichols, the MP for Warrington North, tweeted an image of her being wrongly invited to the virtual meeting for Merseyside MPs.
“Don't know how many times we have to go through this: Warrington is not in Merseyside, it is not in the Liverpool City Region, it never has been and if you're going to make decisions that affect us the very least you could do is recognise that fact,” she added.
Earlier a group of Manchester MPs wrote to the Prime Minister telling him not to close hospitality venues as it will not help drive down infection rates.
Its city council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "They have not been able to show us any data that connects bars and pubs in Greater Manchester with transmission of the Covid-19 virus. They have not been able to provide any evidence that closing them down will work.
"We have far more finely-grained data collected by our own directors of public health that seems to demonstrate that there is not a particular connection between bars and restaurants and the transmission of Covid."
And the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, told ITV's Good Morning Britain it is "far safer, in our opinion" to go to a pub where there are restrictive measures in place, rather than people ending up at house parties.
He added: "Whoever's making these knee-jerk decisions in the Government are not dealing with operators because we saw what happened with the curfew and, by leaking that news that came out on Wednesday, what do you think happened in the city centres across the UK this weekend?
“On Saturday night it was like New Year's Eve."
But culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the case for new restrictions on the hospitality sector is supported by the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
"We know there are challenges around hospitality - for example, the obvious point you can't wear a mask when you are sat down and eating, that frequently you are in contact [with people] that you don't normally meet, and we know that the virus thrives on that kind of social interaction,” he told Sky News.
And he denied the government has been panicked into imposing unnecessary new controls, which he admitted may be needed until after Christmas.
“We are taking reasonable and proportionate measures because we can see the risk coming down the line,” he added.
"It is sadly the case that the number of deaths tends to lag the number of infections.
“If you look at the lead indicators - both the number of infections and now sadly the number of people that are in hospitals with Covid - all of those point to a rapidly rising disease. The path is very clear.”
Labour’s shadow business minister and Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell called on the government to publish proof hospitality venues were associated with high risk of coronavirus transmissions.
She tweeted: "Government and scientists still haven't produced this evidence.
“The big problem for them is local leaders have all the same data (in fact better data for their areas) and they know hospitality settings make up a very small proportion of infection transmission.”
Mr Dowden told Sky News: "The evidence shows that there is a higher risk of transmissions in hospitality settings.”
He added there is “academic evidence from the United States”, although he failed to cite the actual research.
Ms Powell was one of a number of MPs in the city saying they did not support plans to shutter the hospitality sector, sating it accounted for "a very small proportion" of infections.
"We are concerned that closing all regulated premises will not only lead to gatherings being pushed underground, but won't have a sizeable effect on virus transmission rates," the group said.
The letter argues most cases had been either in university or household settings, so what is required is "a local, intense track and trace" system and "well-resourced door-to-door activity" to communicate the guidance.
It was signed by five Labour MPs, but they were backed up Tory William Wragg, who also represents a seat in Greater Manchester.
He tweeted: “Talk of closing pubs, restaurants & cafes is misplaced, given that very limited transmission of covid seems to take place there.
“It would be counterproductive to close them, if people were to then meet in each other’s homes, where transmission is much higher.”
And former minister and Boris Johnson loyalist Jake Berry warned the government has a very small window of opportunity to reset its relationship with the people of the North, which has been “deeply damaged by a really confusing picture over the last couple of months”.
He told Times Radio: "I think the government needs to communicate how areas goes in and out of these enhanced measures, it can't be arbitrary, people can't think they are going to be trapped in a sort of Hotel California lockdown with no route out, I think the government needs to do that with the people of the North"
It come after Mr Dowden said the tough new restrictions may be needed into 2021.
He told Sky News: "If those measures are successful we hope to be able to take areas out of those high levels of restrictions.
"The purpose of doing this is to ensure we get the virus under control so by the time that we get through to after Christmas we are in that position where it is under control.
"Indeed I hope it will be sooner than that."