A council leader has warned a delay to new local lockdown measures in the north of England will encourage a “final weekend of partying”.
Reports emerged on Thursday that pubs and restaurants would be shut down in many northern cities from Monday amid surging cases.
David Mellen, Nottingham council leader, warned ministers the delay in bringing in the new plans, which were leaked to a number of newspapers, will mean another weekend where people can mix and risk spreading COVID-19.
Nottingham is facing enhanced restrictions after a sharp rise in cases.
Asked whether people will have “one last blowout” before the hospitality shutdown, Mellen told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Absolutely. That is our concern, absolutely.”
He added: “There is a chance this weekend that people will think: ‘This might be the last chance before Christmas, so let’s go out and party.’ And we can’t have that.”
Mellen said that it felt like Nottingham residents are “victims of a government change of approach”.
He went on: “And therefore, even though we’ve got very high numbers that we’ve known about since the beginning of the week, we’ve got ‘til next week for government to bring in what we expect will be restrictions in Nottingham.”
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Local politicians have hit out at the government over their approach to lockdown measures in the North, saying they have been kept in the dark and that their local expertise has been ignored.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said on Thursday that ministers had not made him aware of the plans to shut down hospitality.
The first time I heard that all bars and restaurants across the North are to close was when I read it in @thetimes. I’ve had two meetings with Cabinet Ministers this week along with other Mayors and it wasn’t mentioned once. https://t.co/S2nbYL1qlJ
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) October 8, 2020
He told the BBC: “What they are doing is imposing rather than negotiating.
“And there is a very big difference between those two things when we know millions of people’s lives will be affected by these things.”
Mayors, MPs and councillors have pledged to oppose any new lockdown measures unless the government offers a comprehensive package of financial support.
Health officials are expecting Nottingham to be among those placed into local lockdown after a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The city’s infection rate has soared, with 1,465 new cases recorded in the seven days to 3 October – the equivalent of 440.1 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up from 71.2 per 100,000 in the seven days to 26 September, a week that saw 237 new cases.
The director of public health for Nottingham, Alison Challenger, said current restrictions in the city “are no longer enough to stop the spread of the virus”.
Should the prime minister decide to close pubs and restaurants in the north, it would follow Scotland’s announcement that all pubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh must close for 16 days from Friday.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would provide an additional £40m to support affected businesses.
Johnson is already facing resistance to the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants from disgruntled Tory backbenchers.
A vote on the issue will take place on Monday in the Commons but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has already signalled that his party won’t vote against it, instead declaring that the policy needs reform.
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