Pubs and restaurants in Wirral face another severe hit as new restrictions are placed on the borough.
Wirral Chamber of Commerce warned the borough’s hospitality sector faced a “deep blow” after already suffering a longer lockdown than any other sector.
But the news comes as little surprise after coronavirus cases surged in the borough, with the current rate at 96 cases per 100,000 residents, above the rate seen in much of the North East where similar rules were introduced yesterday.
From Tuesday, September 22, hospitality businesses including pubs, restaurants and cafes will have to shut between 10pm and 5am.
People from different households will not be allowed to meet in private homes or gardens.
Paula Basnett, chief executive of Wirral’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “Following the recent news that there had been a rise in cases across Wirral, this announcement will come as little surprise.
“With many of our businesses putting in additional safety measures and reviewing their existing processes over the past few weeks and days.
“It is our hospitality sector that will be hit the hardest by these additional restrictions, a deep blow after enduring a longer lockdown than any other sector.”
In Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire (excluding Blackpool and Greater Manchester), the following restrictions will be in force from Tuesday, September 22:
Residents must not socialise with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens;
Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only; and
Late night operating hours will be restricted, with leisure and entertainment venues including restaurants, pubs, and cinemas, required to close between 10pm to 5am.
Residents are also advised to adhere to the following guidance to further reduce rates of infection:
Only use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work.
Avoid attending amateur and semi-professional sporting events as spectators.
The new restrictions come amid a huge spike in the number of coronavirus cases across Merseyside. In the region as a whole, the infection rate for the last seven days of reliable figures between September 7 and September 13 is 95 per 100,000 residents, while Liverpool’s rate is 111.
These rates are increasingly close to Bolton’s rate of 120 cases per 100,000 residents when severe restrictions including pubs and restaurants being reduced to takeaway services were imposed.
At the start of the recent surge in Merseyside’s coronavirus cases, some observed that many of the infections were among young people who are less threatened by the virus.
But the new rules for the region come as health experts warn this rise could lead to increased hospitalisations among the elderly and ‘at risk’ groups within weeks or even sooner.
Acknowledging the reasons for new rules being brought in, Ms Basnett added: “As a Chamber, we totally recognise the importance of putting public safety first and we are working in partnership with local authorities including Wirral Council to support this work alongside our business community.
“What needs to happen now is for the UK Government to step up and provide the further financial aid our businesses need and deserve.”
Cllr Janette Williamson, on behalf of Wirral Council said: “We did not want to have to see these measures introduced in Wirral or anywhere else but given the significant rise in the number of positive tests in recent weeks it is unavoidable.
“There is a clear link between the increased risk of transmission and the numbers of people gathering together in private homes and hospitality areas and the measures are designed to minimise those contacts.
“Along with our partners, we are committed to doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, whilst still permitting businesses to trade and keeping children in school. These measures will help us to do that.”
As well as hitting businesses hard, coronavirus has also plunged Wirral Council into a “massive financial black hole”.
Cllr Williamson said the authority’s predicted £30m shortfall was caused by the pandemic and meant “everything that the council does is being reviewed” as part of a “massive reappraisal” of council services.
This even included services the council has a legal duty to provide such as adult social care. Cllr Williamson said legally protected services could “face reduction where an enhanced service is currently provided”.