A NAR­ROW SAFE PATH

» Weary Brits hit by tough new 3-tier curbs » But PM warned it may not stop lock­down 2

Daily Mirror - - NEWS - BY PIPPA CR­ERAR Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor pippa.cr­erar@mir­ror.co.uk @Pip­paCr­erar

AF­TER months of sac­ri­fices, job losses and prom­ises of a re­turn to nor­mal by Christ­mas, a Covid-weary na­tion was last night fac­ing yet more re­stric­tions.

Boris John­son im­posed a three-tier sys­tem of curbs, with pubs clos­ing and so­cial mix­ing banned in the worst-hit ar­eas. But the PM was warned it may not be enough to stop a sec­ond na­tional lock­down.

He was ac­cused by Labour leader Keir Starmer of los­ing con­trol of the Covid bat­tle af­ter the test and trace fi­asco and weeks of con­fu­sion over what peo­ple are al­lowed to do. The plans leave Bri­tons gear­ing up for a hard win­ter, cut off from fam­i­lies and with jobs hang­ing by a thread.

Mr John­son told the Com­mons: “This is the nar­row path we have to tread be­tween the so­cial and eco­nomic trauma of a full lock­down and the mas­sive hu­man and in­deed eco­nomic cost of an un­con­tained epi­demic.” But Mr Starmer told him: “I am now deeply scep­ti­cal that the Gov­ern­ment has ac­tu­ally got a plan to get con­trol of this virus, to pro­tect jobs or re­tain pub­lic trust. “We’ve tried to give the Prime Min­is­ter the ben­e­fit of the doubt, but it in­creas­ingly feels like he is sev­eral steps be­hind the curve and run­ning to catch up with a virus that he has lost con­trol of long ago.”

Mr John­son im­posed Tier 3 re­stric­tions on Mersey­side, the only re­gion so far to be placed un­der them be­cause of “very high” in­fec­tion rates.

Aides and min­is­ters are in talks with lo­cal author­ity lead­ers in parts of the North West, North East, Hum­ber and York­shire about re­stric­tions.

It came as a YouGov poll found 40% of peo­ple be­lieve the curbs do not go far enough. And Eng­land’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Pro­fes­sor Chris Whitty warned the sys­tem may not work.

He said: “I am not con­fi­dent and nor is any­body that the Tier 3 pro­pos­als for the high­est rates, if we did the ab­so­lute base case and noth­ing more, would be enough to get on top of it.” Col­league Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Van Tam ad­mit­ted rates were worse in the North be­cause the virus had “never dropped” as much as in the South.

If the new sys­tem fails to halt soar­ing in­fec­tion rates, a two-week “cir­cuit break” over school half-term re­mains on the ta­ble. But SAGE pa­pers re­leased last night showed that gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists rec­om­mended

such re­stric­tions be “con­sid­ered for im­me­di­ate in­tro­duc­tion” three weeks ago. They also sug­gested ban­ning g all con­tact with other house­holds, ouse­holds, clos­ing bars, restau­rants ants and gyms and mov­ing all univer­sity teach­ing on­line un­less es­sen­tial.

Lead­ers across the North are hold­ing out against the he dra­co­dra­co­nian rules. But Mr Starmer John­son warned that un­less they agreed to step up re­stric­tions the Gov­ern­ment could en­force them. He said: “If we can’t get agree­ment ment then clearly c it is our duty to pro­tect the pub­lic and pro­tect pub­lic pub health.” Liverpo Liver­pool Mayor Joe An­der An­der­son said: “Let’s be c clear that hav­ing ig­nored my pleas for over a month, the Gov­ern­ment now blame us, and im­pose ‘ lock­down by dik­tat’ with­out a full fi­nan­cial package and sup­port for busi­nesses.”

A data brief­ing at No10 warned there are now more pa­tients in hos­pi­tal with coro­n­avirus than when the March lock­down was or­dered. NHS Eng­land Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor Prof Stephen Powis said: “If we do not take mea­sures the death toll will be too great to bear.” There were 13,972 new Covid cases yes­ter­day and 50 fur­ther deaths.

Mr John­son said the fig­ures were like “dash­board warn­ings in a pas­sen­ger jet” and added: “We must act now.” Steve Rotheram, metro mayor for the Liver­pool city re­gion, agreed to tougher mea­sures amid a spike in hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions.

Pubs, gyms, leisure cen­tres and casi­nos will shut and non-es­sen­tial travel is ad­vised against for up to six months. But restau­rants and pubs can stay open if they serve “sub­stan­tial” meals – not just bar snacks.

A dozen ar­eas are classed as hav­ing “high high” Covid case rates and will fall un­der the Tier 2 alert level. All other parts of Eng­land are clas­si­fied as “medium” un­der Tier 1 of the Covid alert sys­tem. Mr John­son said ar­eas un­der Tier 3 would get around £1bil­lion of new fi­nan­cial sup­port.

The PM last night still in­sisted life could get back to nor­mal by Christ­mas – if we all obey the new rules and fol­low “ba­sic” hy­giene ad­vice.

AN­NOUNCE­MENT John­son

SCEP­TI­CAL

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