The hospitality sector is being "unfairly targeted" by the government in the race to bring down Covid-19 infection rates, the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor said today.
News that regions placed into the most strict Tier 3 category when restrictions are slightly eased on December 2 are likely to have their pubs, bars and restaurants still closed has caused widespread upset and anger.
If approved, that would be a harsher implementation of the previous Tier 3 status, and mean those premises could only trade on a takeaway basis.
Industry figures have described the potential measure as the "final nail [in the coffin]" for the already struggling hospitality sector.
Today, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram agreed the ongoing tough conditions imposed on bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants were "unfair."
Evidence showed that transmissions resulting from people mixing in those types of venues was particularly low, he added.
He told the ECHO: "Hospitality is massive for the City Region, it plays a large part, and if you're not getting footfall then your business is going to struggle.
"We've seen the businesses over nine months been it hard we are trying to do locally what we can, with the funding we've received.
"But it's predicated on what tier you go into, and even if you go into Tier 2, my understanding is the restrictions are going to be fairly onerous anyway.
"So you move tiers some of the restrictions are going to be strengthened and that will be around hospitality.
"The hospitality sector has been targeted unfairly as being the thing the government believes can get the infection rate down.
"But we know it's only a small minority of transmission rates that are caused by hospitality, very small."
Earlier today, it emerged how Liverpool was set to be piloted for a new scheme in which close contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus will be offered repeated testing rather than being required to isolate under new plans.
Mr Rotheram said: "I think it will be a much better way to do things to show are not infectious and so you can return to the economy much more quickly."
He added that details were still being finalised along with another move to roll out the mass testing programme, which has run in Liverpool throughout November, to Sefton, Knowsley, Wirral, St Helens and Halton.
Keep up to date with local cases in your area by adding your postcode below:
Leaders of the Liverpool City Region are hopeful that the area will avoid the highest level of new restrictions announced by government.
When Tier 3 was first imposed on Merseyside, Liverpool and Knowsley were the top two worst affected parts of the country, with infection rates of around 700 cases per 100,000.
Now the city region's overall rate is down to just 217 per 100,000 and none of the region’s boroughs appear in the list of the country’s 100 most affected areas.
Mayor Rotheram said: "If we can avoid going into Tier 3, that will be brilliant.
"It's the message that would send us because of everything we have done over the last few months.
"It will vindicate some of the decisions we have taken in the leadership across the Liverpool City Region.
"Our figures are remarkable from where we were....when we went into this, we had the third highest transmission rate in the country - in Knowsley, they were on 760 per 100,000.
"Have a look at the latest figures and they are all going in the right direction, we are under 200 across the patch on average.
"So that's down to the people, not just the policy, who have done brilliantly to abide by those onerous restrictions that have been put in place.
"So we could be in a good position in the run up to Christmas to start to see things improve."