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Call for more financial support amid York's Covid tier shift

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image captionYork has been upgraded to tougher Covid restrictions after a sharp rise in cases

Ministers "need to step up" and give more financial support to northern cities hit by new Covid restrictions, the leader of York council has said.

On Saturday, the city moves from the lowest alert level to tier two, meaning households cannot mix indoors.

Keith Aspen said ministers needed to give more employment and business support to make sure they were not adversely affected over winter.

The government said there was a "comprehensive plan" to protect jobs.

The three-tier system was brought in earlier this week in response to a rising number of coronavirus cases, with York initially being placed in the medium - tier one category.

image captionCouncil leader Keith Aspen said it was essential ministers unlocked more funding

Under the tier change, businesses in the city can still remain open and people are allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six but they cannot meet in pubs or restaurants.

Mr Aspen said: "It's going to be a real challenge with tier two because you don't get the level of financial support like you do in tier three, yet particularly for hospitality, leisure and local pubs, they're really worried about this challenge.

"I think the government, not just in tier two but also in tier three, is really going to have to step up and listen to our communities, many of which in the North really do need help to get through the coming months."

Janice Dunphy, who runs Creepy Crawlies play centre in York, said her business did not meet the criteria for financial support during the pandemic and had taken on a "huge loan" to survive.

"We're determined to get through this, but we're going to be saddled with more debt than we've ever had as a business and that's scary."

Ms Dunphy, who has made nine members of staff redundant, said there was uncertainty for her business over the coming months.

"As business owners, we don't know if we're going to have a circuit breaker," she said.

"We're planning for October half term, we need that half term because we can't do parties and things like that, but we don't know what's going to happen."

Meanwhile, health bosses in the city have said students are not to blame for tougher restrictions being imposed.

Only about half of cases among people aged 25 or younger were from students, a council question and answer session heard.

Director of public health Sharon Stoltz said York had seen an increase in cases among all age groups, adding some students would "inevitably" become infected.

A HM Treasury spokesperson said: "We've put in place a comprehensive plan to protect, support and create jobs in every region and nation of the UK, with more than £200bn of support since March - with particular support provided to the hospitality sector.

"And our Winter Economy Plan will ensure this continues in the difficult weeks and months to come - providing a toolkit of support for all situations."

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