Restrictions in North West of England welcomed but leaders ‘disappointed’

Leaders in the North West of England have welcomed new lockdown restrictions but expressed disappointment at the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

Measures announced on Friday for Merseyside, Lancashire and parts of Cheshire will mean more than five million people in the North West of the country will be subject to lockdown restrictions, as measures are already in place in Greater Manchester.

The rules, which come into force on Tuesday, stop people socialising with those outside of their support bubble in private homes and gardens and will see leisure and entertainment venues closed between 10pm and 5am to try and tackle rising coronavirus cases.

Leader of Sefton Council, in Merseyside, Labour councillor Ian Maher, welcomed the measures but called on the Government to deploy extra testing capacity.

He said: “I have written to the minister in the strongest possible terms to express my disappointment and frustration over the lack of testing in Sefton.

“Testing is vital to helping prevent the spread of coronavirus and we need those people who develop the coronavirus symptoms of a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste, to get a test immediately, for their own safety and the safety of others.”

Councillor David Baines, Labour leader of St Helens Borough Council, criticised the timing of the announcement.

He said: “I must say that as a council we are disappointed that we’ve had a week of rumour and speculation from Government rather than clarity and engagement, and it’s not ideal that they have decided to announce these measures on a Friday but not introduce them until Tuesday.”

In Liverpool, the council asked residents to start following new measures “immediately” and have a “safe and careful weekend”.

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Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “We have warned for several weeks now that tougher restrictions would be on the way unless we started to see the number of infections coming under control.

“Any further measures, such as closing venues, would be measures that the city’s economy simply could not afford and would be a devastating blow for individuals and livelihoods.”

Warrington Borough Council leader, Councillor Russ Bowden, also urged people not to have “one more big night out”.

He said: “Although the new restrictions don’t come into force until Tuesday, please support our efforts to drive down Warrington’s coronavirus rates, by staying in or enjoying a night out responsibly and returning home for 10pm this weekend.”

Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Rob Carden said officers would be “encouraging” people to adhere to restrictions and would take enforcement action where necessary.

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He said: “If you do not follow the instructions of officers, you risk being given a £100 fine, doubling up to a maximum of £3,200 if it is not paid.

“For the sake of your health and the health of your loved ones, do the right thing and together we can beat this virus and return to normality as soon as possible.”

Lancashire County Council’s director of public health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said the restrictions came as daily cases of Covid-19 had doubled in the area and hospital admissions had started to rise.

He said: “If we don’t act now we could be facing another lockdown. The situation really is that stark.”

The rules apply to all areas of Lancashire apart from Blackpool, which is a separate unitary authority, and all of Merseyside as well as Halton and Warrington in Cheshire.

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