So after an anxious weekend for many, awaiting news on a change of measures for Greater Manchester, the PM has declared us Tier 2 of a three tier system of Covid-19 restrictions. That means:
  •  Still no indoor socialising beyond your household at all
  • You can see relatives outside in public observing the rule of 6 (this was previously not “advised” but not illegal, leading to confusion)
  • Pubs and restaurants can remain open for now, reviewed monthly
  • Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital to be ready to help out if needed
However, whilst we all clearly need to reduce our contacts to get the infections down, there was no support announced for Tier 2 businesses. I’m glad Greater Manchester isn’t in Tier 3, but the proposals so far sound very similar to the status quo we’ve had for over 2 months now. This just isn’t viable for many local businesses – their trade just isn’t there.
I’ve been thinking on the announcements yesterday and your emails and messages overnight. The first thing to say is, after a weekend of newspaper headlines trailing the ‘lockdown of the north’, it does feel odd that the Government announced a package which broadly leaves us as we were in Greater Manchester, with a slight liberalisation in terms of meeting in gardens. As ever, I ask all constituents to adhere to the restrictions in place.
In terms of where we are at with the virus:
  • There are more people in hospital today than there were on the 23 March. However, this time it is disproportionately concentrated in the North West, North East and Yorkshire.
  • There are 426 people currently on ventilators. 130 of these are in the North West.
  • 856 people have been admitted to ICU since September. The highest number of these have been in the North West.

I am very concerned as to where we are heading.

We also now know that this virus is worse than just being a respiratory disease. It is affecting eyesight, brain activity, kidneys and what is being called ‘Long Covid’ is extremely debilitating for those suffering from it.

Over the last two months the restrictions we have had in Greater Manchester have unquestionably made life very hard for businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, whilst also not getting control of infection rates. On a call with the Secretary of State for Health yesterday, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DMO) Jonathan Van Tamm, I put this to them directly, with specific reference to the 10pm curfew and the lack of financial support for businesses.

The DMO put the situation clearer than anything I have heard from Government Ministers. He said the priority is to keep schools and workplaces and public transport open. Given this decision, hospitality is having to take a heavy burden of restrictions. The Govt are adamant that the curfew is having a positive effect and that it is consistent with the practice in every other country.

I still feel that how the curfew operates in Wales, where last orders is 10pm and off-licence sales are also restricted, is a better way to do it. But from what the DMO has said I strongly believe that what we need is more financial support for hospitality to compensate them for the restrictions, rather than fewer restrictions. To be frank, given where the Government have got us to, the question has to be whether even Tier 3 restrictions will be enough?

There are ways the Government could increase this support quickly. For example,there is money remaining from the last set of discretionary grants that were handed out, which could be repackaged and sent back out. There is far too much talk from Government about sectors being ‘unviable’. As this information shows, it is the restrictions which are making the situation for hospitality businesses unviable. It’s not like we’ve all gone off going to the pub on principle. But the way forward has to be providing the support that is needed, because easing restrictions in this situation could make things much worse and lead to more pain over the long term.

Department of Health and Social Care Guidance for Covid High Alert Areas
Department of Health and Social Care Guidance for Covid High Alert Areas
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