London’s nine million-strong population is to be banned by the government from seeing their friends and family indoors – as Boris Johnson prepares to stop households mixing, while still keeping pubs, restaurants and gyms open.
The capital is expected to be hurled into Tier Two of the new restrictions drawn up by the Tories to try and stem the spread of coronavirus infections.
It prohibits households from mixing indoors, although up to six from different homes will still be allowed to meet up outside.
The tier level also sees pubs, restaurants and gyms still permitted to open up their doors, albeit under the current 10pm curfew rules.
London this weekend saw the streets busy with shoppers, many of whom were in masks
A shopper walks past a London advertising hoarding showing masked-up model
Professor Karol Sikora slammed the way the authorities were allowing the news to trickle out before official announcements, questioning the science for the rules.
He said: ‘I can fully understand the frustration and fury. We’ve got a whole new lockdown system apparently and yet no official word or details from Government.
‘How must pub owners feel in those areas? Reading about their futures on Twitter without the full details. Not good enough.
‘Can we go on like this for months, maybe longer? Arguments about the fundamental strategy aside – this is utter chaos.
‘We all want policies to based on science and data, communicated transparently. That isn’t happening. Trust is easy to lose and very difficult to get back.’
The strictest form of the restrictions – Tier Three – will see pubs, gyms and casinos forced to close and all but essential travel to and from coronavirus hotspots.
The new Tier 2 regulations will mean to households cannot mix indoors anymore
Today Mr Johnson will later spell out his three-tier strategy with areas in England labelled as medium, high or very high risk.
Merseyside is expected to be among the areas subjected to Tier 3 restrictions – but there is still disagreement about a financial support package for the area should harsh measures be imposed.
A statement from seven local leaders, including Metro mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, said: ‘We made it clear we do not feel that the Furlough scheme announced recently is adequate and that businesses in the Region especially those in the hospitality sector and those serving it will be damaged and many will suffer long term damage or close for good.
‘Government made it very, very clear they would not shift and improve the scheme.’
A further 12,872 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as the country’s daily case total stays above the 10,000 mark for an entire week
Some 65 more people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 – nearly double the 33 deaths recorded last week
WHAT DO THE TIERS MEAN?
Tier one restrictions are believed to mirror those already in place across England.
These include the rule of six, a 10pm curfew, group sport to be played outdoors only and a maximum of 15 guests at wedding ceremonies.
Tier two restrictions are expected to be similar to rules currently in place in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, where indoor mixing of households is prohibited.
Two households may be allowed to meet in a private garden, as long as the rule of six and social distancing are followed.
Locals will only be allowed out of their areas for essential travel such as work, education or health, and must return before the end of the day.
Overnight stays by those from outside of these ‘high risk’ areas will also be banned.
Households are expected to be told not to mix either indoors or outdoors.
From 5pm on Wednesday, hundreds of pubs in the northwest will be closed.
Restaurants will be limited to takeaway services only, the BBC says, and bookies, casinos, gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers could all be shut.
It is believed that these measures will be imposed for four weeks before they are reviewed.
If a business is closed due to third tier restrictions, the Government will pay two thirds of each employee’s salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
Under the furlough scheme, the government paid 80% of workers’ wages until August, with the scheme winding down until it is closed at the end of the month.
A separate Job Support Scheme, which launches on November 1 and lasts for six months, will involve the Government paying two thirds of each employee’s salary – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month – if their employer is legally required to close their premises because of restrictions.
Mr Rotheram told Channel 4 News: ‘We have a huge number, a disproportionate number, working in the visitor economy who are on less than £9 an hour.
‘If he (Chancellor Rishi Sunak) thinks that this is something that we will accept, well it’s not.’
According to the statement, the Government has said pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos, adult gaming centres and gyms will close, while The Sun reported overnight stays in the worst-impacted areas would also be prevented and all-but-essential travel bans put in place.
The paper said Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle may also be subject to the toughest of lockdown measures which will be implemented four weeks at a time.
Knowsley and Liverpool, two of the affected areas, are in the top three for infection rates in England – at 669.5 per 100,000 people and 598.5 respectively.
In the seven days to October 8, the areas reported nearly 4,000 new cases.
The north-west had 180 hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Friday and, as of Sunday had a total of 1,218 patients in hospital.
Meanwhile, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord has started legal proceedings to challenge the Government’s impending lockdown of hospitality and entertainment venues.
Mr Lord said leaders had not seen ‘any tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure’ of hospitality in the area and said lawyers had been engaged for a Judicial Review into the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the sectors.
Mr Johnson, who held a telephone conference with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday, will chair a COBR emergency committee meeting on Monday ‘to determine the final interventions’ which he will then announce to Parliament.
MPs will be asked to debate and vote on the measures later this week.
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference in Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty later on Monday.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: ‘Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.
‘We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.
‘This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus.’
Number 10 stressed the extent of discussions with local leaders over the weekend following criticism from some Northern authorities and mayors that not enough consultation had taken place since the Covid crisis began.
Downing Street said senior Number 10 advisers and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick held discussions local authority chiefs and mayors from ‘the highest areas of concern’.
The local authorities have also expressed concern about the impact of harsher restrictions on their own finances, with the statement saying they are existing ‘hand to mouth’.
It said: ‘(We) are currently unable to plan for the medium or long-term.
‘A clearer funding settlement must be achieved that enables us to forward plan, continue to deliver essential public services, avoid large scale redundancies for Local Authority key workers and set a budget for next year with confidence.
‘Therefore, we are seeking assurance from Treasury that, in coming to that national position, no local authorities placed on Tier 3 measures will be put in a position where they are unable to balance their budget this year or cannot set a legal budget next year.
‘In this respect we have agreed that a further discussion with Treasury will take place on this matter.’