A York MP has voiced his concerns that high coronavirus rates in parts of North Yorkshire could see the city put back into Tier 2 after lockdown ends.
The rate of Covid-19 in York has more than halved in a month, which has left residents hopeful that the city will go into Tier 1 after 2 December.
While lobbying hard for that outcome, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy expressed his fear that a regional approach would see the city unfairly penalised.
“In view of the community spirit and self-discipline York residents have shown in getting our rate down to one of the lowest in Yorkshire, my big concern now is that an overly-regional approach could fail to reflect this, and leave our city clobbered with tough restrictions because of higher rates in Hull, Scarborough and Leeds,” he said.
The government has announced that all areas of the country will be put into one of three tiers when lockdown ends next week.
Tier 1 will allow bars and pubs to stay open, tier 2 will ban households from mixing indoors and see pubs closing, unless they operate as restaurants, and tier 3 will close hospitality entirely, except for takeaways.
Mr Sturdy was speaking after trying to pin down health secretary Matt Hancock about York’s short-term future.
Can’t take any more
Before the renewed national lockdown began on 5 November, York had been in tier 2. At that stage there were about 279 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.
The latest figure we have is 132 cases.
In the House of Commons, Julian Sturdy asked: “Given the big sacrifices York residents have made to get the virus down locally, does the Secretary of State accept how unfair it would feel if the city is kept in high tier restrictions, even when our Covid rate is considerably lower than when we entered tier 2, and one of the lowest in our region?
“So does the Secretary of State agree that the new restrictions policy has to give people hope that self-discipline and resilience will be rewarded?”
Matt Hancock responded: “Yes, I do think that those values are important, and should be rewarded, and I hope that areas of the country where the case rate has really come down a long way and is coming down fast, I do hope we will see the fruits of that effort.”
Speaking afterwards, Conservative MP Mr Sturdy said: “Having lobbied hard for the urgent reopening of non-essential retail, leisure centres and gyms, I warmly welcome this, but I warn the government that York’s large hospitality and leisure sector must have a basically-normal Christmas season if we are not to see many jobs and businesses disappear.
“Neither the outright closure of hospitality venues that comes with tier 3, or the ban on indoor mixing of households with tier 2, are acceptable.
“As a shopping and day-out destination, any restriction on hospitality has a damaging knock-on impact on York retail, with York shops recording an average loss compared to normal trading of 31% even in October’s tier 2, pre-lockdown.
“Nationally, retailers make about 25% of total annual sales in November-December, and this month’s lockdown has already wiped out £8 billion of trade for shops.
“York is disproportionately affected by this, and the local economy cannot take any more.”