Labour MPs criticise Tier 3 decision for North East

Labour MPs in the north east of England have criticised the Government’s decision to put the region under the toughest Covid-19 regulations.

After the Tier 3 announcement, council leaders urged people to abide by the rules so the North East can be moved out of the top tier more quickly, allowing the economy to open up.

The whole of the North East, from south of the Scottish Border to the county line with North Yorkshire, has been placed in Tier 3.

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 5, 2020
Coronavirus – Thu Nov 5, 2020

That was despite Newcastle East’s Labour MP Nick Brown pointing out to Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the city’s case rate of 343.8 per 100,000 was lower than the London borough of Havering’s 366.8 – which is in Tier 2.

Mr Brown wrote: “I would be grateful if you could set out for me the pathway to taking this decision.”

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, tweeted: “Just come off call with Health Minister Helen Whately. NE goes into tier 3 from 2 despite there being a 12% drop in case in NE & 22% drop in North of region last week.

“Restriction likely to be in place till Jan & no new money to support business. Shambolic!”

And his counterpart in Jarrow, Kate Osborne tweeted: “Our rates are improving, we should not be in tier 3.”

Setting out its decision, the Government said Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham, known as the North East Combined Authority (NECA), has 318 cases per 100,000, although the figure was stable or falling.

The NECA has “very high” case rates in over-60s at 256 per 100,000 and NHS admissions remained high this month.

Coronavirus – Fri Oct 30, 2020
Coronavirus – Fri Oct 30, 2020

In the Tees Valley, which comprises Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Darlington, and which has a population of around 700,000, cases were falling but remained high at 390 per 100,000.

Positivity also remained very high at 13.3%, as was the case rate in over-60s at 292 per 100,000.

NHS admissions in the area have remained high in November, the Government said.

In a joint statement, the NECA leaders said the national four-week lockdown had not “counted for nothing” and people’s efforts had saved lives and protected health services.

They said: “We must continue to work together and by doing so we will put ourselves in a position to move to a tier which offers more of the freedoms we so dearly miss.

“Let’s keep going so we can once again meet up and socialise with our families and friends, help more of our local businesses reopen their doors to customers or so that we can cheer on our beloved sports teams.”

Ben Houchen, Tory Tees Valley mayor, said Tier 3 was “not where we want to be”.

But he said people must follow the restrictions so they could be eased sooner, adding: “If the new rules are not followed, the virus will continue to spread and we will have to spend even longer under these restrictions – something nobody wants to happen.”

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader councillor Mary Lanigan said she was “disappointed” the borough was in Tier 3.

Dear @MattHancock, please can you explain why these London Boroughs have been spared T3 restrictions? Once again London getting preferential treatment while the North is punished. Maybe test equally in London too & you'll get a real picture.

— Shane Moore (@srmooreuk) November 26, 2020

Shane Moore, leader of Hartlepool Council, called the system a farce and claimed London boroughs had received “preferential treatment” in avoiding Tier 3.

Cumbria, to the west, and North Yorkshire, to the south, have been placed in Tier 2.