Reaction: Tier 3 ‘a bitter blow for people who have done the right thing’

East Midlands leaders have been responding to the news that vast swathes of the region will be placed under the strictest Tier 3 restrictions when the national lockdown ends on December 2.

Matt Hancock announced on Thursday morning that the entire East Midlands will be placed under Tier 3 rules from next week – with only Rutland and Northamptonshire escaping, having been placed in Tier 2.

Nottingham City Council leader councillor David Mellen said: “It’s a bitter blow for people in Nottingham who have done the right thing, followed the rules and done an incredible job of driving down the rate of Covid infections from the highest in the country to below the national average.

“We had hoped that this would have meant we would be spared going into Tier 3 and the extra restrictions that come with that being imposed on local people and struggling local businesses. We will need Government to provide further support for businesses, especially hospitality where they will be particularly badly hit, to see them through this as the amounts offered so far won’t be enough.

“However, we must of course accept that these are the new rules we must abide by and given the valiant efforts locally in the past few weeks, I have no doubt that we will continue to drive down infection rates and be able to leave Tier 3 and enter Tier 2 very soon. The tiers are being reviewed every 14 days so the hope must be that we could be into Tier 2 before Christmas.”

Rick Blackmore

Rick Blackmore, CBI East Midlands Director, said: “For many businesses in the East Midlands, going into toughened tiers while waiting for a vaccine will feel like suspended animation.

“Some parts of the economy, such as retail, can begin to re-open and look towards a recovery. It gives our high streets a chance to rescue some of the vital festive trading period.

“But for other businesses the ongoing restrictions in tiers 2 and 3 will leave their survival hanging by a thread. Hospitality will remain frozen. And supply chains that cross regions in different tiers will be hit even if they don’t face direct restrictions.

“It’s vital that these firms receive the financial support they need to make it through to the Spring. Clarity about ongoing employment support, including the Job Retention Bonus, will help protect as many jobs as possible. Businesses need to know what support will be there through to March and beyond in advance, rather than taking it down to the wire.

“Lessons must be learned from previous local lockdowns. Boundary lines between different tiers need to work on the ground. Trigger points for exiting the higher tiers must be transparent.

“Those decisions will need to be clearly communicated each fortnight and taken collaboratively between local, regional and national leaders. Most importantly, evidence must be open and transparent – the cost to jobs is only justifiable if it has a material impact on health.

“Liverpool’s shift to tier 2 is clear evidence that mass testing can make a real difference on the ground.

“So there is encouraging news on mass rapid testing and vaccines, and it’s vital to protect jobs and businesses with an end in sight.”

Michael Weedon, East Midlands policy representative for the Federation of Small Businesses in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire said: “We were expecting this, but hearing the stark news that the whole of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will face the highest restrictions for at least two weeks – right in the run up to Christmas – is frankly devastating.

“Our county’s hospitality businesses will really feel the sharp sting of this decision at a point in the year when they would ordinarily be at their busiest. The owners and staff of cafes, pubs, hotels, restaurants and cinemas have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic to protect customers, spending huge sums of money to make their venues Covid-secure, only to now face this news. They will of course comply with the restrictions but today’s news will be heart-breaking for them. We can only hope that the review in two weeks’ time will see enough progress to allow for a move down the tier system so these businesses can reopen for Christmas. They will be pinning hope on that.

“We are of course pleased that despite the county being in Tier 3 that our independent shops, gyms and personal care businesses can resume trade from Wednesday. I encourage everyone to do all they can to support these amazing firms as much as they can over the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, Derbyshire’s director of public health is urging residents to be cautious about the risk of spreading coronavirus when rules are relaxed at Christmas.

Dean Wallace said: “After the year we’ve had I’m sure we’re all really looking forward to celebrating Christmas. But the virus hasn’t gone away so Christmas is going to look very different this year and I’d urge people not to let their guard down.

“We have to do everything we can to drive infection rates across the county down – including washing our hands, staying apart and wearing a face covering – so that hopefully we can move into a lower alert level.

“We all want to celebrate Christmas safely so it is more important than ever that we all continue to do everything we can to protect our friends and family by sticking to the rules.

“And even though we’ve been given an opportunity to spend time with the people that we love we have to remember that there will be no ‘Christmas truce’ from this deadly virus which will keep on spreading.

“This virus thrives on people being together so we must all think carefully about the risks of forming bubbles with our elderly and vulnerable relatives – and consider if it is a risk worth taking.”

A joint statement by Leicester’s three local Labour MPs, Liz Kendall, Jonathan Ashworth and Claudia Webbe, said: “This has already been an unbelievably tough year, and the news that Leicester will go into tier 3 – on top of the 150 days of our extra lockdown – is extremely difficult to hear.

“The Government must now spell out how we can get out of tier 3, and the measures they will use to review Leicester’s position, to give people hope their sacrifices will make a difference.