Tier 3 restrictions expected for millions more in Midlands and Yorkshire
Millions more people could find themselves under the highest Tier 3 restrictions before the end of next week as talks continue about tightening rules in West Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
Local authority sources in the West Midlands said the “very high” restrictions level could be imposed “by the end of next week or the start of the following week”.
The region’s Conservative mayor Andy Street said on Thursday that “no decision has yet been made locally nor by central Government in regards to some or all of the West Midlands Combined Authority area moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3”.
He said in a statement: “There are active conversations between local leaders as to what would be needed from a Tier 3 support package.”
Mr Street added: “I know many will question why there is talk of Tier Three despite our current rate of infection being lower than those in other parts of the country when they entered the highest tier of restrictions.
“But if our cases continue to rise we must protect our hospitals, and by acting before our cases reach the levels seen elsewhere we have a better chance of the restrictions working.”
The mayor’s comments came as council leaders in West Yorkshire continued to discuss a possible move into Tier 3 with government officials.
Further north, Teesside Tory MP Jacob Young said he thought the Tees Valley will be placed in the toughest Tier 3 restrictions “within the next week or so” as north-east political leaders said they were meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss whether the region should be placed in the highest bracket.
Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Given the rising case rate and other factors, a move to Tier 3 would seem to be inevitable at some stage.”
He said he is talking with the other council leaders, MPs and public health officials daily to try to agree a unified position on a support package with the Government.
“We don’t want imposition without negotiation,” he said.
“But I have certainly not said that we are going into Tier 3 imminently.
“That’s not currently the case.”
Other local authority officials attending the Midlands’ Tier 3 talks this week told the PA news agency a move to the toughest controls is “a matter of when, not if”, although council leaders were not united on the detail of what controls should apply.
It comes as the whole of Staffordshire, Dudley, in the Black Country, and Telford & Wrekin, in Shropshire, became the latest areas set for a move from medium to high controls.
Staffordshire County Council said the exact date of when restrictions will be imposed is to be confirmed, but will be reviewed after 14 days.
Stoke-on-Trent, which is also in Staffordshire, moved to Tier 2 on Saturday, with public health chiefs there now warning Tier 3 could follow unless infection rates drop.
Hospitals in the region have started postponing routine procedures and appointments to cope with rising admissions of patients with Covid.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, England’s largest, had a 27% increase in the numbers of patients with the disease it was treating in the five days to October 28, because of what it called “sustained and growing pressures”.
Talks have been continuing between the Government and West Yorkshire leaders.
On Wednesday, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said that it appeared the Government was “unflinching in their resolve” to place the region into Tier 3 as another day passed without a decision.
But Ms Hinchliffe, who is also the chairwoman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, told Today on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that she would not describe the situation as a “stand-off”.
Earlier this week, MPs and councillors in the Huddersfield and Dewsbury areas of West Yorkshire came together to warn that Tier 3 rules would have a “devastating effect” on the economy and mental health.
Labour MP for Batley and Spen Tracy Brabin said on Twitter: “There is a lack of transparency from the Government about how we enter/exit Tier 3, and it is unfair on every person living in West Yorkshire to be left in the dark on this.
The political debate is taking place against a backdrop of dramatically rising hospital admissions for Covid-19, with NHS figures showing the Yorkshire and Humber region has the fastest growing rates in England.
Earlier this week, the trust which runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital said only essential operations will go ahead after the number of Covid-19 patients being treated went beyond the number admitted at the peak of the virus’s first wave.
Other hospitals, including Bradford Royal Infirmary, have reported similarly high figures.