Conservative MP Julian Sturdy says he is opposed to York being placed into Tier 2 – and has challenged the health secretary over the decision.
The MP for York Outer asked Matt Hancock: “As the government continues to impose further unprecedented restrictions on people’s freedoms, it’s important to give people hope and justification.
“So as York’s Covid rate continues to fall, and is the lowest in Yorkshire, can the Secretary of State outline how we can get to tier 1 baseline as fast as possible – and will he publish the assessment and the data under which York was placed into tier 2, so we can best judge how to get to tier 1.
“And when he talks about regular reviews, can I say a weekly review would be much more desirable.”
The health secretary told the MP that there would be weekly reviews, and more regularly than weekly if necessary. He said the data and an explanation for the placement of each area would be published, and that more data would be forthcoming.
He added that York’s tier 2 status reflected the need to bring down higher covid rates across North Yorkshire.
Mr Sturdy pointed out that York’s virus rate is now down to 132 per 100,000, the lowest in all Yorkshire, an enormous fall from the 279 it was when the original tier 2 was imposed in October.
Later he said: “I am very disappointed by this morning’s decision that York will go into tier 2 from 2 December.
“Besides the alarming economic impact on our large local hospitality, leisure and retail sector, I have serious concerns that without a rapid move towards tier 1, we risk undermining local morale, as the self-discipline that has got us to the lowest virus rate in Yorkshire seems not to yield a relaxation in restrictions, because of higher rates in the rest of the county.
“I was a little reassured by Matt Hancock’s answer to me that reviews to positions will be weekly, or even more regularly than that, and the assessment on which York’s placing was decided is being made publicly available. I am following up on this immediately.
“I am particularly concerned about what tier 2 would mean for pubs that do not provide ‘substantial meals’, and cannot therefore serve alcohol under the new rules, and have already written to the health secretary on this, firmly requesting a review so venues that don’t do food can serve alcohol as under the old tier 2.
And he warned he could vote against the government. “If my serious reservations are not addressed, I will struggle to support the government in votes on the new tiered system.”
Here’s a response from Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central.
“Today’s announcement that York will be placed in Tier 2 has come as a surprise to us.
“But it would seem the Government have used Tier 2 as the default tier, with exceptions where infection rates are incredibly low, with only three areas placed in Tier 1 – Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight.
“Tier 3 is being used for those places where infection rates remain high.
“We now need to understand what further steps York must take to be placed in Tier 1 and what additional support will be available to underpin our economy.
“Today’s announcement will be a serious blow for many businesses that are struggling at this time, and I confirm that I will continue to make representation on their behalf until at every opportunity.”
She urged people to continue to follow the rules on social distancing, hand washing and face masks.
“People are still really poorly, people are dying and our NHS is feeling the strain, as are our incredible NHS staff, exhausted from a traumatic year, tired of wearing all that PPE all day, and determined to beat this virus.”
Sharon Stoltz, Director for Public Health at City of York Council said: “As a city, we have been fantastic at slowing the spread, with local contact tracing and everyone in the city doing their bit.
“Whilst we were hopeful that this would mean we would be in the lowest level of restrictions, the restrictions can help us further drive down the virus.
“A city-wide effort has resulted in us slowing the spread of the virus but we know from experience and other areas of the country that this virus can spread quickly.
“Whilst we hope we will move to the lowest restrictions possible soon, these measures will help further reduce the number of cases and it is vital we all follow them.
“We must remain vigilant and practice hands, face, space and self-isolate when necessary.
“This has been a challenging time for everyone and we are proud of the city showing its resilience once again. With potential vaccines progressing there is hope, however we all have a role to play before we get to that point. Please stay safe and let’s keep going.”
Councillor Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council said: “Although we are disappointed with today’s news, we must continue to follow the new national guidance and protect the people and places we love.”
“In recent weeks, York’s case numbers have bucked the trend thanks to the hard work of local residents and businesses in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
“Every resident, business, employee and pupil has played their part in this success, and we must build on this achievement to further rid our city of the virus.
“Despite the change in restrictions, we are continuing to lobby the Government to move York into Tier 1 restrictions, given the city’s success in driving the rate of infection down.”
He urged people to follow the restrictions, even though they were tough. “Please do continue in your efforts to slow the spread of the virus and shop local.”
This from Phil Pinder, chair of the York Retail Forum.
“Obviously it’s devastating for hospitality businesses that we’re in Tier 2.
“It’s a real shame, given how York’s cases for the last two weeks have hit the floor.
“It’s great for retail that they can reopen. But I do have concerns.
“Last time York was put in to Tier 2 retail was down by more than 40%, as opposed to a drop of 20% in Tier 1.
“And this is a vital time for retailers. The money we take for the next four weeks will get businesses through to March.”
In his statement to the Commons today, health secretary Matt Hancock set out his reasoning as to why he’d put different areas into the three tiers.
“These are not easy decisions, but they have been made according to the best clinical advice, and the criteria that we set out in the Covid-19 Winter Plan,” he said.
This is the official reasoning why York and North Yorkshire were put into the high, Tier 2 category:
“Overall case rates (including for those over 60) in this region are improving in seven of the eight local authorities and lower than other parts of Yorkshire and The Humber but remain high overall (202/100,000 in all age groups and 145/100,000 for those aged over 60).
“Positivity is 8.5%. Rates in Scarborough are significantly higher than the rest of the region (334/100,000 in all age groups and 247/100,000 in those aged over 60) but falling rapidly.”
This from Andrew Digwood, President of the York North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce:
Here are the rules which we must follow from the beginning of Wednesday 2 December:
No mixing of households indoors aside from support bubbles will be allowed, with a maximum gathering of six permitted outdoors.
Pubs and bars will remain closed unless operating as restaurants, with alcohol only served as part of a “substantial meal” until 10pm, before venues must close at 11pm.
All retail, leisure and personal care services are able to reopen.
People will be encouraged to reduce the number of journeys they make and to avoid travelling into Tier 3 areas, except for reasons of education or work.
Overnight stays will only be permitted for those in the same household or support bubble and accommodation can open.
Places of worship can reopen, but people must not interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
Fifteen guests will be allowed at weddings and civil partnerships, increasing to 30 for funerals.
Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors but not indoors if there is any interaction between two different households.
Large events including sport and live performances will be open to the public but limited to 50% capacity or 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors.
The first to break the news that York was in Tier 2 was Shaun Collinge, of The Maltings pub on Tanners Moat.
He told YorkMix: “It’s going to be tough.
“Tier 2 last time – without the substantial meal – was hard enough and was borderline unviable.
“As York itself has reduced it’s infection rates over the last month below the national average I’m very disappointed with the government’s decision.
“Myself and many others in the hospitality sector are going to find Tier 2 a difficult tier to work with.”
City of York Council have confirm that the Government have placed York in the high level of restrictions of Tier 2, despite York’s rate of infection dropping well below the regional and national averages.
A council spokeswoman said:
“Whilst disappointed, the council would like to thank local residents and businesses for their hard work in slowing the spread of the virus.
“Over the coming weeks, the Council will continue to encourage everyone to maintain the good work and follow the new national guidance, in order to give the city the best chance to move into Tier 1 restrictions.”
In recent weeks, York has seen a substantial reduction in the number of cases and now has one of the lowest rate of new cases in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
This means that people can meet in groups of up to six people outdoors and there are some restrictions on businesses.
The council will “also continue lobbying for further financial support from Government, particularly for low income households and businesses affected during this difficult time”.