Pubs and restaurants in the North of England could be forced to close again after a rise in coronavirus cases.
UK ministers met yesterday to discuss harsher rules in Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle, with hospitality businesses likely to be shut down from Monday.
The warnings come after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a lockdown of pubs and restaurants from 6pm on Friday, which will last for 16 days.
Now, as Covid-19 cases spike in parts of the North West and North East of England, ministers have hinted the closure of premises might be the only option in order to quell the spread of the virus.
The communities secretary Robert Jenrick refused to dismiss the possibility that pubs and restaurants could close again in some regions when quizzed on BBC Breakfast on Thursday.
Local leaders hit back to say there had been no communication from central Government and said without further financial support from Westminster in the event of another lockdown, thousands of jobs would be at even greater risk, and businesses would crumble.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly been resistant to the idea of channeling money into specific parts of the country, instead choosing to offer broader funding and schemes.
But it has left many in some parts of the country wondering why they are being offered no aid in spite of additional restrictions and suggestions of a “north-south divide” have been rampant.
“The prime minister really needs to understand that local communities are angry and frustrated,” Sir Kier Starmer, the Labour leader, said at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
“So will he level with the people of Bury, Burnley and Bolton and tell them: what does he think the central problem is that’s causing this?
“The prime minister can’t explain why an area goes into restrictions. He can’t explain what the different restrictions are, and he can’t explain how restrictions end. This is getting ridiculous. It’s obvious that something‘s gone wrong here, so what’s the prime minister going to do about it?”
A new three-tier system is said to be in the works from the Government, which will hopefully provide greater clarity as to how regions should operate following transmission spikes.
The move will allow speedier reactions to stop infections and help prevent lockdowns.
But, for now, it would seem much of the North is at a real risk of seeing their pubs and restaurants closed again, just months after opening, and for an indeterminable period of time.