Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

‘Nothing you can do’ Labour leaders grilled over threat to defy PM’s new coronavirus rules

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Labour leaders across Northern England criticised the latest coronavirus proposals set to be announced on Monday, accusing the Government of treating the region as “second-class” and did not rule out possible legal action. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram called for Rishi Sunak to announce a more comprehensive plan to help businesses in the north England cope with future lockdowns, but the Labour politician was promptly confronted by Cathy Newman on his and his colleagues’ tied hands on the matter. 

The Channel 4 News host said: “If you don’t get that extra financial package, and MPs back it, you’ve got nothing that you can do!

“Unless you defy the Government and tell bars and restaurants to stay open?”

Mr Rotheram replied: “We don’t want to get into the situation where ourselves and Government are at loggerheads.

“That’s why we’re saying make certain that’s meaningful consultation, and we’ve got another session with Government and Number 10 tomorrow, and we’ll go through the detail of the package that we need.

“The Government seem they want to work with us and we will have to see what’s the best package of support that we can get that ensures that our economy doesn’t tank.”

Millions of people could be banned from mixing indoors and outdoors and thousands of pubs forced to close under new coronavirus restrictions due to be announced on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to outline a new three-tiered system of restrictions with measures expected to force pubs and restaurants shut across the north of England.

Reports suggest under the top tier no household mixing will be allowed either, which could affect millions of people living in areas with high COVID-19 rates across England.

The Sunday Times reported ministers were drawing up proposals to give town halls more powers over the test and trace system to try to secure their support.

Meanwhile, people could be seen socialising in city centres across the UK – including Liverpool, Newcastle and London – on Saturday evening before pubs in their areas were potentially closed.

It comes as the number of people in hospital with coronavirus increased across every part of England on Saturday – rising to 1,167 in the north west from 725 previous week.

A further 15,166 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Saturday, and 81 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,000 deaths registered in the UK where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Under the proposed three-tier system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories, with areas in the highest level expected to face the toughest restrictions.

The Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley Ben Houchen said the third tier restrictions are expected to run in four-week blocks, with pubs and bars being required to close and no household mixing will be allowed for socialising either indoors or outdoors.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Friday workers in businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the Government.

But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that accepting Mr Sunak’s financial package would be to “surrender” people to hardship in the run up to Christmas.

Speaking at a press conference with political leaders from Liverpool, Sheffield and Tyneside on Saturday, Mr Burnham said the measures risked “severe redundancies” and business closures.

Mr Burnham said the Government was treating the North as second-class and did not rule out legal action.

He added: “It will level down the north of England and widen the north-south divide.”

The leaders of West Yorkshire councils also warned on Friday that “significantly” more financial support was needed to prevent an even deeper economic catastrophe.

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