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Regions to go into Tier 3 accuse government of giving London preferential treatment

BORIS JOHNSON was accused of giving London special treatment today as details emerged that it would be spared the toughest Tier 3 controls when lockdown ends next week.

Nearly 99 per cent of people in England will be under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions from December 2, with restrictions being reviewed every 14 days. Just 1.27 per cent of people will be under Tier 1.

More than 32 million people will enter Tier 2, said Downing Street, while around two fifths of the population — more than 23m people — will be under Tier 3, a substantial increase compared to October. 

Greater Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham will be among the cities that will either remain in or be hoisted into Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday, while Liverpool will join London in Tier 2. Leicester – which has been in continuous lockdown since the pandemic took hold in Britain in March – will return to Tier 3.

Sir Richard Leese, the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, said it was “deeply disappointing” the city had been placed in Tier 3 when “we have seen a very significant reduction in infection levels, bringing Manchester close to the national average.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tweeted a table showing that while cases per capita were still high in the region, the number of new cases was falling more sharply than in the rest of England.

Downing Street denied that economic factors were playing a part in the tier decision-making process and claimed London had not received a special exemption.

All areas in Tier 3 have called for clarification on how they can get out of Tier 3, and have asked for more financial support for businesses that will be forced to close in the run-up to Christmas.

In the Commons, Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that “nobody wants to see a third lockdown.” 

He urged Health Secretary Matt Hancock to guarantee that the new tier system will be “enough to bring the R rate down and sustain it below one for the coming months until a vaccine allows life to return to normal”.

Mr Hancock replied that the “goal of the government is to bring R to below one to suppress the virus until a vaccine can keep us safe”, and that that would be the “exit strategy” to avoid a third lockdown.

Unite the union called for a boost in statutory sick pay (SSP), currently £94.25 a week, saying that a failure to increase it while so many areas were set be put into Tier 3 was “a serious dereliction of duty.”

General secretary Len McCluskey said: “These tough new tier restrictions across most of England will not be successful unless the government puts a floor underneath workers’ incomes so that they can support this fresh effort to defeat the virus. 

“Ministers knew full well that these restrictions were coming … I call upon the Chancellor to head back to the Commons immediately and announce that sick pay will be raised to a living level and that the self-employed and lowest paid will qualify too.”

A new arm of the official government website, which allowed users to enter a location and be told which tier it would be placed in, crashed within moments of its launch today.

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