THE region’s leaders have expressed their anger at the government’s handling of a new three-tier Covid-19 system – as tighter restrictions were placed on the region.
Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton have all been categorised as ‘high risk’, the second of the three tiers, putting them in the same category as areas with much higher infection rates.
Solihull currently has 155 cases per 100,000, while Birmingham peaked at 160 cases per 100,000.
Manchester meanwhile had 561 cases per 100,000, but is also ranked as ‘Tier Two’.
The Tier Two decision has prompted Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, to write to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for clarity on the package of support those areas facing increased local restrictions can expect to receive.
He wrote: “The decision to place the West Midlands into the ‘high’ alert level will critically affect businesses in the hospitality sector. Households cannot now mix within these establishments.
“These firms may not be formally required to close their doors, but they will face significantly reduced patronage.
“Under these new restrictions, many businesses will struggle to cover costs and will have to resort to redundancies.
“This could amount to a closure by default, if not by law. This risks an avoidable domino-effect across local economies.”
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce has also condemned the move to Tier Two.
He 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.
“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.”
Mr Street has called for targeted support for the hospitality sector, power for local authorities to provide grants and loans direct to the
hospitality sector and firms in other sectors facing similar issues.
He also called for tax relief to be extended to the hospitality sector.
The new Tier Two restrictions mean that in Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell:
Households will not be able to meet indoors (except with support bubbles) including indoor hospitality as well as private homes
People are advised to minimise the number of journeys they make
While people can still go on holiday, it can only be with those they live with, or their support bubble.