Covid: Nottinghamshire tier 3 talks 'haven't started yet'

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Image caption,
David Mellen said examples had been set by packages given to Merseyside

Discussions on Nottinghamshire entering tier three Covid restrictions still have not started, despite government comments, a council chief has said.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson said conversations with "local leaders" in the county were ongoing.

But Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen said talks had not begun, despite the city having one of the highest infection rates in England.

He said he would do whatever was needed to "protect the population".

The prime minister told a press conference on Tuesday: "Elsewhere discussions on moving to the very high alert level continue with local leaders in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and the North East."

But on BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier, Mr Mellen said: "They haven't started, we've had some minor conversations with civil servants in the Department for Health but there has been no contact with ministers as yet."

He said the council had expected a letter "outlining what was going to happen" on Tuesday evening, but "that hasn't been received".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Mr Mellen said he was "anxious" about the high infection rate in the city

He added: "We assume that when serious conversations take place they will be with senior civil servants or with ministers, and those dates haven't been put in our diary as yet."

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Gedling MP Tom Randall in the Commons that "talks are ongoing about what more might be needed" for Nottinghamshire.

He said: "It may be that more needs to be done; we will be driven entirely by the data and working closely with the local authorities."

Nottingham is currently under tier two restrictions and has the second highest infection rate in England, with 632.6 per 100,000 people testing positive for the virus.

The figure has gone down over seven days, but Mr Mellen said he was "anxious" to "do whatever we need to to protect the population".

He added: "Given tier three restrictions will have a big effect on our economy, that has to come with a package to support our businesses, otherwise we will have lots of unemployment."

Analysis - Daniel Wainwright, BBC Data Unit

The good news for Nottingham is that coronavirus cases appear to be falling.

However, the city recorded almost 1,000 cases for every 100,000 in the week to 10 October, so it still has a long way to go and still has a rate higher than almost every area of England subject to tier three restrictions.

In the week to 17 October so far, there were 633 lab-confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. Data gets revised daily and that rate may change as more test results come back.

It works out at a rolling average of just over 300 cases in total per day.

The largest number of positive tests in the city was on 8 October when there were 598 confirmed cases on that one day.

On Tuesday the government walked away from talks with leaders in Greater Manchester over a financial support package for the region, which will move into tier three on Friday.

Mr Mellen said: "We're an area with high levels of deprivation, similar to Liverpool, and in order for us to maintain employment and to support our businesses, there would need to be a reasonable package that's just as good as other areas have received."

The council leader's calls for financial support have been echoed by Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, who challenged Mr Johnson in the Commons over the impending tightening of restrictions.

Alleging the government "lost control of virus, making extra restrictions inevitable", she said offering "no new financial support" would be like "killing Nottingham businesses".

Mr Johnson said: "We will of course continue to provide the full panoply of support that we've offered, and more, throughout this crisis."

Elsewhere, South Yorkshire will be the next region to enter tier three restrictions after "extensive discussions" with the Sheffield city region mayor.

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