On Thursday, the government announced what parts of England would be placed in Tier 1 (Medium Alert), Tier 2 (High Alert), and Tier 3 (Very High Alert). Only Cornwall and the Isle of Wight escaped the more severe and restrictive measures.
In fact, almost 98 per cent of the population of England has been put into Tier 2 or Tier 3, with key cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Bristol all in the highest Tier 3 category.
Vast swathes of the countryside, across the Midlands and the North, most notably, have also been put into Tier 3, due to a spike in cases.
London, Liverpool, the South West, and the South East will be in Tier 2 from December 2nd. It is a near-purgatory: restaurants can open, but to cater only to bubbles and households; pubs can serve customers, but only alongside a ‘substantial meal’.
It is as if Tier 2 is the old Tier 3, and Tier 3 is essentially still lockdown – for hospitality, at least. Of course retail, tattoo shops and massage parlours will all be allowed to trade.
Hospitality has been singled out. Why? We don’t know. The government has yet to offer any hard scientific evidence to suggest pubs and restaurants are to blame for what has been indisputably a dangerous upward turn in cases.
Perhaps if the government better managed the pandemic, and more acutely judged how to tackle it while allowing life to continue with some degree of normality, thousands of businesses and livelihoods would not be at risk.
There are still financial support packages in place – the furlough scheme will protect most jobs, for now, and loans and grants have been improved. But many chefs and restaurateurs have told Harden’s that the £3,000 grants barely cover the rent. What’s more, as brutal as this may sound, why protect jobs if there are no places of work to return to?
It is clear we all need to collectivise to combat the virus. If the NHS is strained, the government must act. But yet again hospitality has been used as the scapegoat – it is hard to see otherwise, when the fact other sectors are allowed to open, while ours cannot.
At least for now pubs and restaurants can continue to offer their ever-enjoyable meal kits, as well as takeaway and delivery. Those in Tiers 1 and 2 can reopen, bringing a buzz back to at least some of the UK, London included.
Today all we can do is eat out where possible, order takeaways aplenty, and see out Christmas. The vaccine, well, Godspeed.