Cabinet debating whether to close hairdressers and leisure venues under 'traffic light' system

Harry Yorke
·3-min read
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Cabinet ministers are at odds over whether to close hairdressers and leisure venues under a new three-tier approach to local lockdowns, The Telegraph has been told.

Under the traffic light system due to be unveiled by Boris Johnson within days, areas placed in the top tier of lockdown measures will be forced to close pubs and restaurants. 

Cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are among those expected to be placed in the so-called “red zone”, with Sheffield and Nottingham also thought to be at risk.

According to Whitehall insiders, Matt Hancock and health officials are also pushing for leisure venues and hairdressers to be shut. 

However, the Health Secretary is said to be encountering resistance from a number of Cabinet 'hawks' who want to keep as much of the economy open as possible. 

While the middle and lower tiers of the system are now believed to have been signed off, it is understood the debate has meant that the final list of restrictions in the top tier are still being finalised.

It comes after The Daily Telegraph this week revealed that the traffic light system had been held up due to disagreements over who should be responsible for deciding when areas are moved to the highest tier of restrictions.

Rishi Sunak is now understood to have won the right to be consulted on pub and restaurant closures after proposals were put forward for a new sign-off process involving him, the Prime Minister and Mr Hancock.

According to The Times, Mr Sunak and Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, also argued for more flexibility in the traffic light system and for greater certainty over when areas should have tighter measures imposed on them. 

Discussing the latest debate over leisure venues and hairdressers, a senior minister said: "It hasn't been resolved yet. It's a heated debate, it's a very difficult balance and both groups are coming at it from different priorities.

"It's not a case of saving lives or saving the economy, it's a balance between the two and it's a fine balance. So obviously there are going to be discussions around that."

However, an ally of Mr Sunak insisted that he was not “just saying no” to tougher restrictions, adding that “all of these decisions are taken in the round.”

A Government source also played down suggestions of a row, telling The Telegraph: "Everyone across Government is looking to establish what measures may be needed but no decisions have been taken and work is ongoing. 

"Everyone supports the strategy of suppressing the virus and protecting the economy."

Separately, leaked documents emerged on Thursday which suggest that the traffic light system will be announced on Monday before coming into force on Wednesday. 

The papers, seen by the Nottingham Post, suggest that areas placed under mid-tier restrictions will see household mixing banned indoors, as well as at pubs, restaurants and shops. 

Areas subject to the lower tier of restrictions are likely to be required to abide by the existing 10pm curfew and the rule of six.

“There will therefore be no announcements of the Local Risk Levels from central government this week and we are currently seeking to clarify whether or not the Watchlist will be published this week accordingly,” it goes on to state.

“Our current expectation is that the approach will be announced on Monday, October 12 with the new standardised regulations coming into force on Wednesday October 14.

“Level One and Two measures have now been signed off by Covid O committee but there is further work ongoing on Level 3."