'Completely unfair and explicitly biased' - reaction to Lancaster district being placed into Tier 3 under new government Covid-19 guidelines
The Lancaster district has been placed in Tier 3 - the highest measure - under today's new government Covid-19 guidelines.
Despite having the lowest infection rate in Lancashire at 97.2 per 100,000, and one that is less than half the national average (which is 208.7), the Lancaster City Council region has been placed in Tier 3 along with the rest of the county.
The system will take effect from December 2 and be regularly reviewed, and an area's tier level may change before Christmas - the first review is scheduled for December 16.
A different system of restrictions will be in place over the Christmas period.
Tim Tomlinson, who runs The White Cross, Merchants 1688 and Stonewell Tap pubs in Lancaster, said the decision is unfair and biased and will have a massive effect on the district's hospitality sector.
"This morning’s decision by the national government to unilaterally place Lancaster in Tier 3 is a devastating blow to our hospitality sector and also for everyone who was hoping to enjoy a small taste of social interaction over the Christmas period," he said.
"The decision flies in the face of the scientific evidence and all our hard work to keep the rates low, and it is completely inconsistent with the tiers they have allocated in other, mainly southern parts of the country.
"Like everyone, we want to make sure this disease is beaten, but as a result of all the hard work we have carried out along with the city environmental health we have amongst the very lowest infection rates across the whole country.
"In fact, lower than every single one of the 32 London boroughs, which are all tier 2, and lower than York, Liverpool, Cheshire and Cumbria, all of which are also in tier 2.
"The city’s hospitality sector has been lobbying hard for separate tiering, between the higher and low infection areas of the county. And this has been strongly supported and argued for by our city and county councils and MP Cat Smith. Yet the national government has completely ignored this.
"This will cause huge unnecessary economic misery for 100s of businesses and 1000s of staff for whom December is usually the oasis that sees us through the tough winter.
"It appears the government’s approach is that everyone in the south is tier 2 unless their rate are especially high, but everyone in the north is tier 3 unless their rates are especially low. Completely unfair and explicitly biased.
"We will keep pushing for a fair tier for the levels of infections in our area and hope the government see common sense, but in the meanwhile it is going to be a very difficult few weeks for the city’s pubs and restaurants."
Coun Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “This is not the tier we expected or wanted. We asked, again and again, that the government make an assessment on the Lancaster district’s numbers and risk. It is deeply infuriating that the government has once again retreated to making sweeping assessments, rather than engaging with local expertise and conditions.
“However, even though we are frustrated and annoyed, and deserved more for the sacrifices we have made and doing such a good job, we cannot give up. We must keep driving our numbers down, so when we are reassessed in two weeks, our case is even stronger.
“The city council will continue to do everything we can to support residents, local jobs, businesses and organisations and we will continue to fight for the support from government to save lives and livelihoods.
“Please remember to wash your hands, wear a face covering and make space for others.”
Lancaster MP Cat Smith said: "I am disappointed and angry that despite falling infection rates, indeed a rate less than half the national average, Lancaster has been included in Tier 3 restrictions.
"I am being inundated by emails and calls from constituents and local businesses who share my outrage and how unfair this is. I will continue to make the case that our area shouldn’t be lumped in with parts of east Lancashire where infection rates are much higher."
"I would urge residents to follow the Tier 3 restrictions and keep our rates low, as that will help make the case for moving down into Tier 2."
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said: "Whilst I understand how frustrating it is to be placed again in Tier 3, I fully support the decision which has been taken by the Government based on the scientific advice.
"We have all seen that the number of cases in the Lancaster district, thanks to the hard work of us all sticking to the guidelines, is falling and is currently the lowest in Lancashire but it is still high and we are not out of the woods yet.
"The Government have five indicators when making the decision on which tier to put an area, the general case rate is only one of these areas. They also have to look at the pressure on the local NHS, the number of beds available, the movement of people for work in those areas and importantly the rate of infection in the over 65 age group amoung other things.
"We are doing fantastically well in our area brining the rate down and whilst it is still high at the moment if we all follow the guidelines, and protect our friends and family, we will be able to move into tier 2 soon."
Angie Ridgwell, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum, said: "Whilst we're disappointed that the government didn't take into account Lancashire's large and complex geography, what this decision does do is make crystal clear what everyone needs to do in Lancashire to drive infection rates down.
"By our collective efforts, we have made substantial progress over the past number of weeks, and this work needs to continue in the coming weeks. We've done so well to drive down the rates of infection, we don’t want to lose those gains now. By continuing to work together and build on this work so that in the forthcoming reviews we can show that Lancashire can go into tier 2.
"Coronavirus continues to have a devastating effect on our communities and our economy and we know that our hospitality in particular is suffering greatly. The sooner we can get these restrictions eased, the sooner these sectors can start to rebuild, so it's more important than ever for us all to play our part."
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council's director of public health, added: "We are starting to see really positive signs across Lancashire. In some areas we are significantly below the national average for coronavirus, and in all areas we are going in the right direction.
"But we have to keep this up, as this will be the fastest way for us to get Lancashire into a lower tier. And the guidance remains the same – hands, face and space.
"It's important as Christmas approaches that we don’t lose all the gains we've made in the last few months. What we do before and during the Christmas season matters most to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s make smart choices about who we meet and keep everyone safe, until we get a well-functioning test, trace and isolate programme, and of course vaccinations."
Tier three (very high)
You can't mix with other households indoors, or in private gardens and pub gardens
You can meet in a group of up to six in other outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches or countryside
Hospitality venues - such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close, except for delivery and takeaway services
Spectator sports cannot resume
Indoor entertain venues - such as bowling alleys and cinemas - must close
People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas
Tier two (high)
In tier two you can't socialise with other households indoors
You can meet in a group of up to six outside - including in a garden, or a public place
Shops, gyms and personal care services (such as hairdressing) can reopen (if Covid-secure)
Pubs and bars can only open if they serve substantial meals. Alcohol can be served with that meal
Sports can resume with up to 2,000 spectators, or 50% capacity (whichever is smaller)
Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume (with restrictions)
Non-essential foreign travel allowed, subject to quarantine rules
Tier one (medium)
Only a small number of areas are expected to have the lowest level of restrictions.
Areas in the lowest tier will have some restrictions relaxed:
The rule of six will apply indoors and outdoors
Pubs and restaurants can shut at 23:00 GMT, with last orders at 22:00 GMT
Spectator sports can resume with a crowd of 50% of capacity, or 4,000 spectators, whichever is smaller
There are exceptions in all tiers for childcare and support bubbles. More details of the plan are here.