Coronavirus: Anger as whole of Lancashire in tier 3

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Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Lancashire will be in tier three when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday

Politicians in Lancashire have reacted angrily after the whole county was placed into the highest tier of restrictions.

Council leaders had asked for it to be split into different tiers to reflect lower Covid-19 rates in parts of central, west and north Lancashire.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said she was "furious". South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster said he was "livid".

Lancaster City Council is calling for local not regional assessments.

It means people can only meet other households in outdoor public spaces where the rule of six applies and hospitality businesses like pubs, bars and restaurants will have to stay closed.

Gyms and close-contact beauty services like hairdressers will be able to open in all tiers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out the reasoning behind the tier decisions in a written ministerial statement.

The government said the system would be regularly reviewed and an area's tier level may change before Christmas, with the first review scheduled for 16 December.

'Bitterly disappointed'

Council leaders had requested areas with lower infection rates such as Lancaster, Blackpool and the Fylde and Chorley go into tier two, while Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Burnley, Pendle, Preston - where cases are higher - go into the top tier.

The latest data show Hyndburn had 432 cases per 100,000 people for the week to 21 November. Burnley had 362, Chorley had 211, while Lancaster had the county's lowest number of infections, with 97 cases per 100,000.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "While there have been improvements in some areas, case rates and the proportion of tests which are positive for Covid-19 remain high.

"Case rates in over 60s are very high (over 200 per 100,000) in six lower tier local authorities. There is still pressure on the NHS in this region."

Councillor Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said the authority was "bitterly disappointed", adding that tier three status was "inappropriate".

"The government has not recognised the significant improvements we have made in reducing infection rates - or the impact tier three will have on our economy and people's livelihoods," she said.

"It is difficult to see how we can ever exit tier three if we are always going to be tied into areas of the county that do not have comparable circumstances."

Labour MP Cat Smith tweeted she was "furious" Lancaster and Fleetwood had been put in tier three.

She added: "Lancaster has a lower infection rate than all bar one London borough. Yet London has been put into tier 2. This makes no sense."

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The Labour leader of Lancaster City Council, Dr Erica Lewis, is calling for a reassessment, "based on local figures and local risk".

She tweeted: "We did not deserve tier 3.

"The campaign for a local rather than regional assessment starts now."

South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster, who also represents Labour, tweeted: "I'm livid." He said cases of the virus in central Lancashire were "decreasing significantly".

"This news provides no hope for so many."

Conservative leader of Wyre Council, David Henderson, said he had proposed the west of Lancashire be placed into tier two so being placed in tier three was "very disappointing"

He thanked Wyre residents "for their sacrifices and commitment to sticking to the guidance."

The tiers would be reassessed in two weeks, he said, adding: "We must now take this time to bring down the rates even further".

'Disaster for hospitality'

Preston council leader, Labour's Matthew Brown said he was "really disappointed" and worried about the "continued effect" it would have on residents and struggling businesses.

Image source, Ye Olde Hobb Inn
Image caption,
Sarah Locke said the news was a "massive blow" to Lancashire's hospitality industry

A pub owner from Bamber Bridge, Preston, described the news as a "disaster" for hospitality.

"It's a massive blow for the hospitality industry," Sarah Locke, owner of Ye Olde Hob Inn, said.

"I wish we were put in tier two. This is the busiest time of year and we are back into the unknown again," she added.

"Pub owners are stuffed; many won't survive."

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