Warrington is to go into the toughest “tier 3” level of coronavirus restrictions from a minute past midnight on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
The Cheshire town joins Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire in the most stringent of Boris Johnson’s three-tier coronavirus alert level, after recording some of the highest infection rates in the country.
Warrington Borough Council said on Friday that it had secured a financial support package totalling £5.9m from the government, including £4.2m for business and employment support and £1.7m for public protection and enforcement, and Mr Hancock today confirmed those figures. It was then expected that the move would take place on Thursday, but it has been brought forward by two days.
Under tier 3 arrangements, all pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals, and betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play areas have also been told to shut their doors.
Local residents are barred from socialising with anyone outside their household or support bubble either indoors or in private gardens and outdoor hospitality venues. They may meet in parks and in the countryside in groups of no more than six.
People from Warrington are advised not to travel outside the borough for non-essential reasons and should avoid staying overnight elsewhere in the UK.
The DHSC said infection rates in Warrington had reached 361 per 100,000 population during the week of 12-18 October, compared to 180 in England as a whole.
Although a spike in infections was initially detected among younger people, there are signs it is moving into the older population, with case rates at 217 per 100,000 for over60s - a 20% rise on the previous week.
As of 20 October there were 117 confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospital in the area, with 17 mechanical ventilation beds occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients.
Mr Hancock said: “Infection rates are rising in Warrington, and we have agreed with local leaders that it’s time to take action. I know that these new measures will mean sacrifices must be made by the people in Warrington, and I want to extend my thanks to each and every one of them for recognising the severity of the situation and sticking to the rules.
“We have agreed a support package designed to help businesses while boosting efforts to control the virus locally, and will not hesitate to take similar action in any area of the country if infection rates continue to rise. Please remember - now is the time for us all to work together to get this virus under control.”
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I thank local leaders in Warrington for the productive discussions we have had to help get the virus under control in the area as quickly as possible.
“I’m pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that ensures swift action is taken in accordance with public health advice. I recognise the huge impact this will have on the area and sacrifices that will need to be made. That’s why we have agreed an extensive package of support for local people, businesses and the council.
“The restrictions we have agreed together will only be in place for as long as they are absolutely necessary. They will be reviewed jointly in 28 days’ time.
“The government is working with closely with local leaders as we tackle this challenge together, for the benefit of all the people of Warrington.”