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‘Inconsistent mess’: Lancashire moved into highest level of COVID restrictions

Written by on 16 October 2020

Bars and pubs across Lancashire will close after local leaders agreed the county should move into Tier 3 of England’s lockdown system.

It means towns such as Blackpool, Blackburn and Fleetwood join the Liverpool City Region in the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

The Department of Health and Social Care has issued a statement following close discussions with local leaders and confirms Lancashire will move from local COVID Alert Level “high” to “very high”. The restrictions come into place from midnight.

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A statement said: “Following close discussions with local leaders, Lancashire will move from Local COVID Alert Level High to Very High from 00.01 on Saturday 17 October.”

Under the COVID-19 rules, people are banned from socialising with other households both indoors and outdoors, while bars and pubs are closed unless they can operate as restaurants only.

The “rule of six” applies outdoors and people should avoid travelling outside the very-high alert level.

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In addition, the government said that from 00.01 Monday October 19 adult gaming, casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, and soft play areas must close. Car boot sales are also not permitted.

Unlike Liverpool, which is also under Tier 3 restrictions, gyms in Lacashire will remain open.

The new restrictions cover Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre.

It is understood local leaders were convinced to accept the new restrictions by a multi-million pound government support package.

Which Tier am I in?

The region has secured a GBP42m funding package and will have weekly talks with the government, Sky News correspondent Inzamam Rashid understands.

Local councils had been promised GBP12m in funding but had also agreed an extra GBP30m to help with the local test, trace and isolate and other measures, sources said.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson tweeted to say he was seeking “immediate” clarification why gyms wouldn’t close in the area.

He said: “Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool’s close.

“Inconsistent mess we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B. Are gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool region [?]”

Meanwhile, Pendle Council leader, councillor Mohammed Iqbal, said Downing Street had effectively “threatened” to withhold funding to individual local authorities if they objected to the upgrade in restrictions.

In response a spokesman for Number 10 said: “Our approach throughout was to work constructively with local authorities and to ensure we had the right level of support for people locally because we know just how difficult the coronavirus restrictions are.”

Downing Street also said it was up to regional leaders to decide whether gyms should be closed as part of Tier 3 restrictions.

Commons Speaker and Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said he was “shocked” at the announcement.

He told Sky News the “the jury’s out” as to whether harsher measures will work to bring down infections.

Talks between Westminster and local leaders in Lancashire about financial support ran into the evening on Thursday, after speculation the county may be locked down.

Ian spencer, the owner of a private members’ club in Chorley, Lancashire, told Sky News’ Inzamam Rashid he is “gutted” the region has been put under Tier 3 lockdown restrictions, but people want the government to “sort” the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last one hurt us. Going by what customers are saying in the club, some are for the lockdown, others are not,” he said.

“Let’s just get on with it, get it sorted and have the kids grow up to a clean environment.

“I am gutted really because I enjoy my job. But I’m gonna have to put me feet up, and fingers cross the numbers come down. So let’s get on with it.”

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COVID-19: Lancashire to move into Tier 3

In Lancashire, infection rates are among the highest in the country and continuing to rise rapidly.

Rates are highest for those aged 16-29 at 552 per 100,000 people, while in the most vulnerable age group, those aged over 60, cases stand at 214 per 100,000 people.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care beds has reached nearly half the number seen at the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

The latest data suggests there will be more people in mechanical ventilation beds in the county within two weeks than there were in the first wave.

The public health directors for Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool have made a joint plea to the public to stick to the rules.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Professor Dominic Harrison and Dr Arif Rajpura said: “We are at a very dangerous phase of the pandemic.

“Infection rates are going up across Lancashire, hospitals are getting busier and people are quite frankly sick of coronavirus and just want life to return to normal.”

They added: “Now that Lancashire has entered Tier 3 the next month is critical to getting the virus under control.

“In the meantime, as public health professionals we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect the people of Lancashire and we are working night and day to do so.

“But you also have a role to play as well to protect yourself, your family and your community. By sticking to the restrictions – even though we know it’s hard – and following the simple guidance around hands, face and space you will help limit the spread of coronavirus.”

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Several major areas are moving up to Tier 2 from midnight on Friday – including London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, North East Derbyshire, Erewash, Chesterfield, and York.

Southend and Thurrock in Essex are not included in the new measures because they are unitary authorities.

Tier 2 restrictions mean people cannot meet other households socially indoors – whether at home or at other venues such as pubs.

The “rule of six” still applies in outdoor settings – as it does all over the country, and people are advised to “reduce the number of journeys where possible”.

Meanwhile, leaders in Greater Manchester have “unanimously opposed” being put into Tier 3, amid a bitter political row with Westminster.

A call between Greater Manchester leaders and Downing Street officials failed to reach an agreement on new coronavirus rules on Thursday.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said there are no further discussions with Westminster scheduled for today.