Words: Richard Beecham
The leader of Leeds City Council said Leeds would make the case to Government to move to Level 2 restrictions within two weeks of the imposing of next month’s lockdown.
The Government announced today (Thursday) that Leeds and the rest of West Yorkshire would move into Tier 3 lockdown restrictions from December 2.
But council leader Judith Blake revealed that the Government would look again in mid-December at which tiers individual local authorities should be placed in.
Speaking at an online press conference, Coun Blake said she was disappointed that Leeds was heading for tier 3, adding the city’s infection rate now stood at 274 per 100,000 people.
“It has been quite a difficult and frustrating day waiting for information this morning and not hearing until after it had gone up on the website.
“We want to pay tribute to everyone who has worked so hard – the council, NHS, all of our partners and the public themselves for helping to drive down the infection rates.
“We are very disappointed to be in Tier 3 and we feel very deeply for those in the hospitality sector and in entertainment who are so affected by restrictions in Tier 3.”
Coun Blake said Leeds’s position would be reviewed by the Government on December 16, adding: “Government has been getting a lot of pushback on its regional approach. I asked today whether the review will look at individual authorities on their own.
“It’s an issue we take seriously – I don’t want to make negative comments about our neighbours, and rates in all areas are going down significantly.”
She added there was a “basket of indicators” which needed to be met for the Government to agree to move Leeds to Tier 2, adding:
“There is no one aspect of this that will work on its own, everything will have to work as a package.
“We know that we want to work with all of our communities, all of our partners, getting across the different messages and using every tool available – making sure we attack the infection levels at every single level.
“If we rely on one set of measures then this won’t work.”
The council’s director of city development Martin Farrington said footfall in the city centre was currently 70 percent down on this time last year.
He added covid marshals and city centre ambassadors would be in the city centre to help keep shoppers safe. He added council-distributed support grants for businesses in the city currently totalled £38.6m.
Leeds City Council’s director of public health Victoria Eaton said:
“We are pleased to see the significant drop in the infection rates in Leeds in the last few days. That shows we have had a 38 percent reduction in the last seven days.
“It shows a huge effort from the public and partners. There will be challenges in December and January as we see restrictions easing over Christmas.
“We are not out of the woods, and we have work to do.”
She said there were hopes for “mass vaccinations” in the new year, adding: “It’s positive news about where we are heading. We have three new potential vaccines and we are on track with how we want to deploy those in Leeds.”
Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said there would soon be testing available for 40,000 students in the city, adding:
“This is across all sectors of the city. We have a powerful partnership with the NHS and our public health team.”
The Health Secretary made an announcement in Parliament this morning after the Government set out its Covid-19 “winter plan” earlier this week.
Tier 3 restrictions will mean people living in Leeds will not be allowed to meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody they do not live with, or who is not in their support bubble. This includes in any private garden or at most outdoor venues.
They must also not socialise in a group of more than six in some other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.