Liverpool to be placed in top tier of new Covid restrictions, ITV News understands

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Liverpool will face tough new coronavirus measures as part of a three-tiered system of Covid-19 restrictions in England which the prime minister will announce on Monday, ITV News understands.

It is also believed that Manchester, which had been slated for similar tougher measures, will not be placed in the top tier.

Areas in England will be labelled as medium, high or very high risk, which will inform the “appropriate interventions” needed in each area.

It comes as leaders in northern England have expressed anger at the impact of the anticipated measures, warning they could "shatter" local economies.

On average, coronavirus rates are higher in the North and Midlands, than in the south of England.

On Sunday, Boris Johnson held a telephone conference with Cabinet members as he updated them on the new restrictions which he is set to announce in the Commons.

The toughest level of the new three-tier system of restrictions will likely see pubs and restaurants closed and millions of people banned from mixing indoors and outdoors.

The lowest of the three tiers would be the "rule of six" and 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants which are in place across the country.

While the new system is intended to simplify restrictions across England, ITV News understands the top tier could vary by area, with local leaders haggling over issues such as bans on leaving the region, the limits on socialising, and whether pubs and restaurants should be closed.

ITV News also understands the Liverpool City Region will be placed in this top tier.

Latest figures suggest Liverpool has almost 600 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people.

Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 2,763 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 8 – the equivalent of 830.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Liverpool is expected to be placed under much tougher restrictions. Credit: PA

Political Correspondent Paul Brand reported that pubs, gyms, casinos and betting shops will likely be closed and the tougher restrictions could be in place for six months.

He added that restaurants will likely be allowed to remain open and the new measures will be renewed monthly.

ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand explains the restrictions Liverpool could soon see

He adds that the government is still finalising the details with local leaders and as such, restrictions could alter.

Paul Brand adds that the agreement includes additional financial support to help councils with enforcement.

Late on Sunday evening, Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tweeted a "deal isn't a deal until it's agreed".

However, Brand added that the measures are "seem set", but that negotiations are ongoing over financial support for businesses which have to close.

On Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government will pay two-thirds of wages for workers who are legally unable to attend their jobs due to lockdown restrictions.

Yet many leaders in the North of England, including Mr Rotheram, say more needs to be pledged to employees who cannot work.

Brand also believes the north-east, which was suggested could be put in to tier three, will be placed in to tier two.

ITV News understands Manchester, which likewise feared being placed in to tier three, may not face the toughest measures.

As of Sunday, the seven-day average in the city was 477.7 cases per 100,000, compared to 530.5 one week ago. The figures are based on Press Association calculations of Public Health England data.

A Manchester MP told ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt they believe the area will avoid top-level or tier-three restrictions.

They said there is "broad cross-party consensus” against the most severe of measures and “the evidence doesn’t support closing hospitality".

It comes after Manchester MPs wrote to the prime minister, arguing against a tier three lockdown.

They said data “would not seem to support a rationale” for closing pubs and restaurants, as a large proportion of the spread is among students and in private homes. "Transmission in hospitality settings, as you know, constitutes a very small proportion of infection rates," they write.

Political Editor Robert Peston has seen a copy of the letter sent by Greater Manchester MPs

Earlier on Sunday, Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese told ITV News he is resisting the closure of pubs and hospitality in the city, as "the government has not been given any evidence" the closure will make a difference to infection rates. "The evidence we have is particularly for our younger population, and Manchester, has a very young population, if you close bars and restaurants, they'll just find other ways of meeting," Sir Richard said.

It comes as northern leaders issued warnings about the economic impact of potential tougher restrictions.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, told Times Radio, leaders in the North of England, have "got very little powers or influence" over the decisions made by Westminster.

"The rhetoric of this Prime Minister is about levelling up and what we are going to be witnessing in Liverpool, and I know, I’m quite happy to say I’ve been told, that Liverpool will be likely to be placed in tier three," Mr Anderson said. “That is going to have huge economic damage and damage that will take us back to the position this city was in in the 80s with large levels of unemployment, of people unemployed and it will set us back a long time."

People out socialising in Liverpool city centre. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Images

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham called for more financial support and consultation, telling Times Radio: “If they continue with this, jobs will be lost, businesses will collapse, the fragile economies of the North will be shattered.” Mr Anderson said that if the government does not offer economic support for people and businesses during the lockdown they will have to pay instead for people to be on benefits. He said: “If this was in London we wouldn’t be talking about this. It’s because it’s the North West they want to do it on the cheap and we are not going to allow them to do that.”

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK. Credit: PA Graphics

The tension between the north and Westminster comes as England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the country is at a tipping point similar to the first wave of coronavirus, but can prevent history repeating itself. Prof Van-Tam said the best way to keep transmission low and stop the NHS being overwhelmed is for people to follow self-isolation guidance, wash their hands, wear face coverings and social distance.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces the government will pay two thirds of the wages of staff businesses forced to close under new restrictions. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Images

He added: “Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed. “Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”

Meanwhile another leading scientist warned the UK could face another lockdown unless tougher measures are quickly imposed.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, said it is “probably right” for greater restrictions to be placed on pubs. She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Now I think it is probably right to say that there are going to have to be restrictions on pubs. I think the length of time that young people spend in pubs probably is part of the driving force around this.” But she hit out at the way the government was handling the situation, adding: “They’re treating us with contempt, but more importantly they’re treating people across this country with contempt as well.”