The UK government split England into three coronavirus risk levels on Monday in an attempt to slow the resurgence of an epidemic, placing the city of north Liverpool in the highest risk category and closing its pubs, gyms and betting shops.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the national three-tier system was designed to “simplify and standardize” a confusing patchwork of local rules on what residents can and cannot do. Johnson said stores, schools and universities will remain open in all areas.
He told House of Commons lawmakers the goal was to save lives and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed without “shutting down our lives and our society” with a new national lockdown.
However, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses have pushed back, arguing they’re not responsible for the rise in infections.
After dropping during the summer, coronavirus cases are on the rise in the UK as winter approaches, with the North West and North East of England recording the largest increases. Liverpool has one of the most serious epidemics in the country, with around 600 cases per 100,000 people, even more than the hard-hit European cities of Madrid and Brussels.
Under the new measures, areas in England are classified as medium, high or very high risk and subject to restrictions of varying severity.
Areas at the lowest level will follow existing national restrictions, including a 22-hour curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on assembling more than six people. In high risk areas, members of different households are prohibited from meeting indoors.
The “very high” risk level will be subject to restrictions, including the closure of pubs (except those that serve meals) and if local authorities wish, other places such as gymnasiums and restaurants. casinos.
Liverpool was the only area ranked higher on Monday, but Johnson said authorities were still in discussions with other local leaders in northern England.
Liverpool pubs, gyms, entertainment centers, betting shops and casinos will close from Wednesday.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said local authorities supported tighter restrictions as long as they were accompanied by improved testing and traceability measures to suppress clusters of infections – which he said the government had accepted.
“In addition to protecting lives and doing things to fight the virus, we also need to protect livelihoods, so we have really been pushing for a stronger financial package,” said Anderson, a member of the Labor Party. ‘opposition. “Unfortunately, it was not listened to. ”
The government has announced a support program to pay two-thirds of the salaries of employees of companies told to close, but many in the pub and restaurant industry say that is not enough to save already struggling businesses .
Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said he doubted the new measures would go far enough to “control this virus, protect jobs or maintain public confidence”.
The UK has experienced the deadliest epidemic in Europe, with an official death toll of 42,875. Health officials say Britain is at a tipping point in the epidemic, with aggressive action needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed at a time when they are already busiest with influenza and d ‘other winter diseases.