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Tier 3 restrictions in Bristol will ‘further decimate hospitality sector’

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Bristol Council Covid marshals patrol the city centre (Ben Birchall/PA)

Imposing Tier 3 restrictions on Bristol will further decimate the hospitality sector, the city’s mayor has warned.

Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset will be placed under the strict measures when England’s national lockdown ends on December 2.

The areas were previously in Tier 1, the lowest level of restrictions.

On Thursday, the UK Government said the overall picture in the areas was concerning, with “very high case rates overall” of 325 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 10.4%.

It said Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset were part of a wider travel-to-work area and so formed a “natural geographic grouping” that was separate to the surrounding area.

Under the restrictions, hospitality settings such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants are closed and only able to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery.

Following the announcement, a spokeswoman for Bristol City Council said Tier 3 measures were forecast to cost the council £2.8m per month due to a shortfall in Government funding to support businesses and vulnerable people.

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, said: “It’s disappointing as I’d hoped that with our incidence rate coming down below 400 again we would be seen to be heading in the right direction and we would earn the right to get into Tier 2, but the decision-makers thought otherwise.

“We will continue to make clear to the Government the scale of financial need.

“We don’t have certainty yet on the Universal Credit payments, so we need that certainty.

“We need the Government to be aware of the full scale of the financial impact.

“We anticipate we’re facing a £2.5 million-a-month shortfall in what we receive from Government and the increased need and lost revenue that we will face as a result of being in Tier 3.”

Mr Rees said one of the main reasons for the recent increase in infection rates was people going into each other’s homes when this is not allowed.

The infection rate in Bristol is now 390.2 cases per 100,000 people. In the past seven days, there were 1,808 positive tests in the city.

Christina Gray, director of public health for Bristol, said: “This is a deadly virus and impacts on our hospitals and impacts on people’s lives, and sadly some people have died.

“At the same time the action that we take to contain the virus has other impacts – on people’s mental health and wellbeing, on livelihoods and jobs.

“It’s not one choice or another.

“Our NHS has been under pressure for some time and we escalated a number of weeks ago.

“We did that not just because of the background rates of infection but because our hospital system was coming under pressure.”

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, called for “urgent” economic support for businesses in Bristol.

He said he was “not surprised” to hear that Bristol would be under Tier 3 restrictions and called for people to follow the rules.

“We however urgently need to see economic support, especially for Bristol’s hospitality sector which remains closed,” Mr Jones said.

Conservative MPs Liam Fox and John Penrose have questioned the decision to put North Somerset into Tier 3 because of its proximity to Bristol.

“On our own, North Somerset might well qualify to be in Tier 2, but we have been placed in Tier 3 because we are regarded as ‘a natural travel to work area’ along with Bristol and South Gloucestershire,” the MPs said in a statement.

“The fact that Bath and North East Somerset is in Tier 2, even though it is part of the same ‘natural to travel to work area’, makes the decision even more illogical.

“This all comes at a time when travel to and from Bristol is much lower than usual anyway, because people have been asked to work from home.

“This isn’t right or fair. We hope that, at the review point in 14 days’ time, this methodology can be changed so that North Somerset can be treated on its own merits, and so hardworking local businesses are not punished because of higher infection rates in Bristol.”

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