North East leaders will 'resist any attempt' to impose Tier 3 covid restrictions - councils say cases 'leveling off' in region
North East leaders have warned that they will “resist any attempt” to impose Tier 3 lockdown measures on the region.
In a statement on Monday October 26, top political figures from across the North East said that Covid-19 rates are continuing to level off and claim the Government has accepted that existing restrictions have had success in curtailing the spread of the virus.
Council chiefs were warned in an email on October 22 that there “may shortly be a need” to impose stricter controls in Sunderland, South Tyneside, Northumberland, County Durham, North Tyneside and Gateshead and that a meeting would be arranged between local leaders and ministers.
Those discussions were expected to take place on Monday, but are still yet to be arranged.
The region’s public health directors did hold talks on Friday lunchtime with England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, at which they presented evidence of plateauing case numbers.
And leaders have now reiterated their belief that current Tier 2 measures are “the right level for our communities”, fearing the business closures caused by tougher local lockdown rules would devastate the region’s economy.
The joint statement was issued by council leaders Nick Forbes, Martin Gannon, Glen Sanderson, Norma Redfearn, Iain Malcolm, Graeme Miller, and Simon Henig, plus North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, North East England Chamber of Commerce CEO James Ramsbottom, and North East Local Enterprise Partnership chair Lucy Winskell.
They said: “Thanks to the collective efforts of everyone across the North East, we are continuing to see our infection rates level off and plateau.
“Residents and businesses across our region have gone to extraordinary lengths to apply Covid-19 restrictions into their daily lives and have persevered with immense integrity and spirit throughout the pandemic. We want to thank them for everything they have done and are continuing to do to keep us all safe.
“In our discussions with Government, they accepted that the measures we asked for in September have kept people safer, and helped us avoid the economically damaging restrictions put in place in other areas. We were quick to be proactive and we are seeing the impact of this approach.
“While the increase may have been curtailed, there is a long winter ahead. The rate of infection remains high and we must now ask everyone to redouble their efforts in order to look after themselves, their loved ones, protect more vulnerable residents and prevent hospital admissions escalating.
“We still believe that Tier 2, the ‘High’ COVID alert level, is the right level for our communities and continue to demonstrate to Government that this remains the case.”
Under current restrictions in the seven council areas, people from different households or social bubbles are banned from mixing in any indoor setting.
But a move to the ‘Very High’ Tier 3 category would force pubs and bars to close completely unless they are serving “substantial meals” and would prevent residents making overnight stays in other parts of the UK.
The leaders’ statement added: “We are also continuing to lobby for additional support for all those businesses doing their upmost to operate in a COVID-secure manner in these difficult times without the need to move to Tier 3.
“Recent announcements from the Chancellor have been welcome, but more must be done.
“We will carry on making the case for a more localised approach to test and trace, allowing us to capitalise on local expertise and knowledge of our communities, and work closely with the police to call for greater resource and support to enforce the guidance.
“We do not want to see harsher restrictions imposed on our residents by Tier 3 and will resist any attempt by Government to do so. This would have an even greater impact on our economy and our wellbeing. But if we are to avoid this, we all need to continue working together.”
Asked to provide an update on the prospect of the North East being moved into Tier 3, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to comment.