It was the first part of England to be hit with strict new restrictions to curb the new wave of coronavirus.
But residents of Liverpool feel like they are being punished once again by policies being made 180 miles away in the capital of London, having been scarred by government neglect during the 1980s.
The port city has recovered from decades of industrial decline, but the Covid-19 crisis is now putting its hard-won revival in jeopardy – and raising tensions between the North of England and the wealthier South.
The other United Kingdom nations in addition to England – those being Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have also been tightening restrictions in recent weeks in light of the coronavirus resurgence.
The pandemic has highlighted the gap in finances and health between the relatively affluent South of England and the post-industrial North that also includes the cities of Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds.
Liverpudlians have retained their mistrust of London politicians, and the pandemic has brought it to the surface – with a patchwork of specific measures for cities and regions now replacing the UK’s national lockdown.
A man wearing a face mask walks past a statue of the Beatles in the English port city of Liverpool on Wednesday
Fiona Hornsby, the owner of the Bridewell pub in Liverpool, puts a towel over the beer taps on Wednesday
People eat out outdoors on Wednesday as others walk past as Liverpool was put into the highest-risk coronavirus category
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in Westminster to attend a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday
Liverpool City Region was the first part of the country to be placed in the toughest Tier Three restrictions, after cases surged
Pub owner Fiona Hornsby, who reluctantly shut her Bridewell bar to follow new curbs on business and socialising imposed by the Government this week, said: ‘At the beginning, when we all went into lockdown, it made sense.
‘We were all doing it for a reason, and that was fine.’ But Ms Hornsby added that with the complex localised restrictions in the northern city, ‘it’s almost like we’re being separated, divided. It just doesn’t feel right at all.’
Manchester, which was once an engine of the Industrial Revolution, is also likely to fall under the Government’s new restrictions.
How half of England’s population are now in the highest risk categories of the Covid alert system
Half the population of England will now be in either Tier 2 or 3, the highest risk categories, of the Government’s Covid-19 alert system.
The new system in England sees areas put into different categories labelled as medium, high or very high risk.
The medium level is also referred to as Tier 1, high is Tier 2 and very high is Tier 3.
Liverpool City Region, comprising 1.6 million people, was joined by Lancashire today as the only regions in Tier 3.
But what are the differences between the tiers and how has the country been carved up?
TIER 3 – ‘VERY HIGH’ RISK
In Tier 3 areas, those categorised as very high risk, social mixing is banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant. The rule of six applies in some outdoor settings such as parks, public gardens and sports courts.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said on Monday that he was ‘not confident’ that the ‘base case’ for Tier 3 proposals ‘would be enough to get on top of it’.
Local leaders will help to determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos. Shops and places of worship can remain open, as can schools and colleges.
Universities must reflect wider restrictions with the option to move to greater online provision. Up to 15 guests are allowed at weddings and 30 people can attend funerals, with 15 allowed at wakes, but wedding receptions are not permitted.
People living in Tier 3 areas are advised against overnight stays in other parts of the UK and people should avoid travel where possible in and out of the area.
TIER 2 – ‘HIGH’ RISK
Areas categorised as high risk, those in Tier 2, will see household mixing banned indoors while the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors. People must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.
Up to 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes. Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship will remain open, with overnight stays permitted.
The travel advice for those living in Tier 2 is to reduce the number of journeys they take where possible and avoid travel into very high Tier 3 areas. When announcing the new tier system, the Prime Minister said most areas which were already subject to local restrictions would be placed in Tier 2.
As yesterday, areas in Tier 2 include Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash will move to Tier 2 from 0.01am on Saturday.
TIER 1 – ‘MEDIUM’ RISK
Areas classed as medium risk, those in Tier 1, will be subject to the same national measures which currently apply across the whole country. These include the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Up to 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and up to 30 people allowed at funerals, with 15 allowed at receptions and wakes. Shops, gyms, all education settings, and places of worship will remain open, with overnight stays permitted and no travel restrictions within the area.
People are advised to avoid travel into Tier 3 areas where possible.
The region’s mayor Andy Burnham is holding out for more financial support before consenting.
Mr Burnham, who is part of the opposition Labour Party, accused the Government of treating people in northern England as ‘second-class citizens’ by imposing ‘a punishing lockdown without proper support for the people and businesses affected.’
Mr Burnham said the Government’s own scientific advisers aren’t certain the regional lockdown strategy will work, and he argued that the government is asking his area’s residents to gamble their homes, jobs and businesses and a chunk of their economy on an experiment.
‘They are willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try and save them elsewhere,’ a furious Mr Burnham said.
‘Greater Manchester, the Liverpool city region and Lancashire are being set up as the canaries in the coal mine for an experimental regional lockdown strategy as an attempt to prevent the expense of what is truly needed.’
Today, Lancashire became the second area of England to be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.
From tomorrow, people in the North West county will be banned from socialising with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting or private garden, as well as in most outdoor hospitality venues.
When coronavirus first hit the UK this year, the Government told all but essential workers to stay home and ordered most businesses to close.
The wide lockdown slowed the spread of the virus, but not before the country racked up Europe’s highest Covid-19 death toll. It currently stands at more than 43,200, though all such official figures are likely an underestimate.
The surge in new confirmed cases since shops, restaurants and other businesses reopened during the summer and students returned to schools and universities in the fall is more uneven than the UK’s first wave; infection rates currently are much higher in northern England than they are in the South.
In response, the UK Government this week adopted a three-tier system that ranks cities and regions in England as medium, high or very high risk.
Only the Liverpool region of 1.6million people was immediately placed in the top tier, which requires pubs to shut and bars households from mixing.
Authorities in northern England agree on the need to act. With more than 600 cases per 100,000 people and its intensive care units 90 per cent full, Liverpool is one of Europe’s worst-hit cities at this stage of the pandemic.
But there is also resentment over what many see as the Government moving too quickly to lift the national lockdown restrictions and failing to create an efficient test-and-trace system to contain new outbreaks.
‘The embers of the infection here were never extinguished and they burned brighter up here than they did elsewhere in the country,’ said Paul Brant, a Labour Party member of the Liverpool City Council.
‘Unfortunately, policy in this country is too often directed as a result of what happens in the capital rather than the local conditions that are taking place here in the North.’
Liverpool’s public officials want more say in controlling the city’s outbreak, an exit strategy for lifting the restrictions and money to make up for years of government spending cuts that have left public services in Britain’s less affluent areas threadbare.
The North-South tensions that the pandemic stirred up are never far from the surface.
David Jeffrey, a lecturer in British politics at the University of Liverpool, said Liverpool’s 1980s clashes over money and policy with the Conservative government of prime minister Margaret Thatcher fostered a ”them versus us’ narrative’ toward London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Conservative like Baroness Thatcher, is especially unpopular in the city.
Liverpool natives, commonly known as Scousers, still remember that years ago a magazine Mr Johnson edited, the Spectator, accused them of ‘wallowing’ in victimhood.
‘In Liverpool, this idea of `Scousers don’t trust Tories’ ties in to trust in the government and their corona message,’ Mr Jeffrey said. ‘So if there’s no trust in the competency of the government, people aren’t going to follow the rules.’
Video footage showing young revelers partying in the city’s street with little regard for social distancing on Tuesday night, hours before the new restrictions took hold, drove home that point.
Before the pandemic, that image would have been seen as a sign of the city’s success.
Liverpool’s docks on the River Mersey, left abandoned as ships moved elsewhere in the late 20th century, have been regenerated with restaurants and museums, including an international slavery museum and a Tate art gallery.
Four universities give the city a youthful, lively population, and Premier League football teams Liverpool and Everton support thousands of jobs.
A couple walk through Liverpool on Wednesday in front of scarves marking the football team’s Premier League victory
A mother sits with her daughter near the River Mersey as Liverpool on Wednesday as the city goes into a tier three lockdown
Tourists come from around the world to see the houses where the city’s most famous sons, the Beatles, grew up and the Cavern Club where they honed their craft. But all that is on hold now.
How 47,000 Covid infections are occurring every DAY in England
Around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring daily across England, with deaths expected to hit 240 to 690 per day by October 26, according to evidence presented to Government scientists.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University published new predictions on October 12 on how fast the epidemic is growing across the country.
They estimate cases are doubling in under seven days, with a ‘substantial proportion’ of those being asymptomatic.
The figures are fed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides real-time information to the Government through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and to regional Public Health England (PHE) teams.
On October 12, the MRC unit published a report saying: ‘Our current estimate of the number of infections occurring each day across England is 47,000.
‘We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 240 and 690 on October 26.’
They said the daily number of infections was within the range of 28,900 to 74,900 per day, with the best estimate being 47,000. They added the estimated growth rate for England is 0.09 per day.
‘This means that the number of infections grows by 9% each day and it translates into a doubling in number in under one week,’ they said.
‘The central estimates for the number of new infections is particularly high in the North West and the North East and Yorkshire (17,600 and 10,700 infections per day, respectively), followed by London and the Midlands (5,450 and 5,720, respectively).
‘Note that a substantial proportion of these daily infections will be asymptomatic.’
‘The football, the nightlife, people coming into town – it’s all gone,’ said John Ambrose, a guide with the Beatles-themed Fab4 Taxi Tours. ‘We used to do about 4,000 tours a year. We probably only did about 12 per cent of that this year.’
Government scientific advisers have suggested the current restrictions may not be enough and there will have to be even tougher measures, maybe a total lockdown, to bring the outbreak under control.
Some fear that the gains of northern cities like Liverpool and Manchester could be undone.
‘Liverpool fought, everyone fought, to get into a position now where we were all actually looking forward to 2020,’ John Hughes, the head of local industry group Liverpool Pubwatch, said. ‘But the situation we are in now is, we’re going to go back to them dark days of the ’80s.’
Local business owners say the support offered by the government – paying two-thirds of the salaries of workers in businesses forced to close – isn’t enough to prevent widespread hardship this winter.
‘I think if they came up and spoke to us, actually came and talked to us, then maybe they’d understand and maybe think about things a little differently,’ said pub owner Ms Hornsby, who has laid off 20 staff members. ‘But they don’t, do they?’
Further south, London and seven other areas will face further restrictions after the UK Government raised their coronavirus risk levels in an effort to slow the exponential rise in infection rates across the country.
The Government’s decision to move the communities into its second-highest coronavirus risk tier means that more than 11 million people will be barred from meeting with anyone indoors from outside their households and will be asked to minimise travel starting this weekend.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that he recognised these restrictions would be hard on individuals and businesses, but said tough decisions were needed now to keep people safe.
‘Coronavirus is deadly and it’s now spreading exponentially in the UK,’ Mr Hancock said. ‘We must act to prevent more hospitalizations, more deaths and more economic damage.?
Mr Johnson this week introduced a three-tier regional approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic, with each tier bringing in progressively tighter restrictions.
The Government is trying to slow rising infection rates and prevent the National Health Service from being swamped with Covid-19 cases this winter while seeking to avoid a national lockdown that would ravage the UK’s struggling economy.
The opposition Labour Party’s spokesman on health issues, Jonathan Ashworth, described the measures as inadequate to stem the exponential growth of the virus.
A couple wearing face masks walk down the stairs of a shopping centre in Liverpool on Wednesday
Bars and pubs are shut on Wednesday as new anti-coronavirus measures come into force in the city of Liverpool
People walk along a shopping street in Liverpool on Wednesday as new measures across the city region were brought in
A nearly empty shopping centre in Liverpool on Wednesday as new measures across the region come into force
He reiterated calls for the government to implement the recommendations of its scientific advisers and impose a two-to three-week national lockdown, or ‘circuit break’, arguing it could save thousands of lives.
After Mr Johnson on Wednesday refused to rule out such a move, Mr Ashworth asked yesterday what the government’s criteria were for taking such action.
‘How many more hospital admissions? How much non-COVID care delayed? Dare I say, how many more deaths?? Mr Ashworth said. ‘Action is needed now.?
Mr Hancock shrugged off the question, saying now was the time to work together. ‘That is the best way to defeat this virus,’ he said.
The other UK nations – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have also been tightening restrictions in recent weeks in light of the coronavirus resurgence.
There are growing indications that travel between the four nations will start to be restricted too, particularly to and from areas deemed to be high risk.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday that she would ask Mr Johnson for an urgent meeting on a four-nation strategy to restrict travel from high-risk areas to lower risk communities.
Unilaterally, she asked people from central Scotland, including cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh that are facing the tightest restrictions, to avoid traveling to Blackpool, a seaside town in North West England famous for its illuminated installations at this time of year.
Blackpool is an even bigger draw for Scots this year because pubs will be showing the football match between the country’s two biggest soccer teams, Rangers and Celtic – while pubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh are still closed.