West Midlands leaders have expressed their anger at the Government’s handling of the new three-tier Covid-19 system – as tighter restrictions are placed on the region.
Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have all been categorised as ‘high risk’, the second of the three tiers and residents will, from today, be banned from mixing with other households in any indoor setting, including hospitality venues. MPs are expected to debate and vote on the measures today.
While Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced a package of support for businesses forced to close due to tighter measures, no new support has been made available to firms in ‘high risk’ category areas.Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
has joined West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Birmingham City Council leader Councillor Ian Ward in criticising the Government’s handling of the Covid restrictions.
Chamber chief executive Paul Faulkner (pictured) said: “We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated at the Government’s handling of the current situation. Despite having invested vast sums of money in Covid secure measures, the region’s hospitality sector is being thrown under the bus with no substantial evidence of significant transmission in hospitality settings.
“Despite days of leaking potential measures to the press, yesterday’s announcement came with little detail and no government guidance for businesses.
“Despite weeks of warning of the impact further restrictions on demand would have on the viability of the local hospitality sector, the Government continues to refuse to take meaningful steps to support businesses in high alert areas.Stark reality
“Across the UK there are businesses struggling and - in the case of the major events sector and nightclubs - still forced to remain closed through no fault of their own. At this rate, the Government will throw away all that was invested in saving jobs and businesses over the spring and summer through its utter refusal to adapt to the current stark reality.
“We need the Government to step up, fix the failing test and trace system, follow the evidence and deliver meaningful support to save businesses and jobs as we battle through the winter months.”
Mr Street said: “This is not something regional leaders supported, nor what I believed would be happening following extensive conversations over recent days. The main problem in the West Midlands remains transmission within household settings, and stricter measures for the hospitality industry will not solve that.
“I am urging the Government to review this decision as soon as possible. In the meantime they must offer financial support to hospitality businesses, which are now set to suffer a loss of income.
“I find it very surprising that the West Midlands with an average infection rate of 123 by 100,000 is in the same tier as Manchester, which has an average infection rate of more than 550 per 100,000.”
Councillor Ian Ward expressed his disappointment but also urged Birmingham residents to “do their bit” in tackling the spread of the virus.
He said: “The negative impact of the new restrictions on the hospitality sector and the lives of the people who work in it cannot be overstated.
“The sector supports more than 135,000 jobs across the West Midlands and it's essential that further financial support is made available to those businesses affected. I am now seeking assurances that funding will be provided.
“In order to get these restrictions lifted we need to drive that rate down and that will only happen if everyone does their bit.”