WARRINGTON Borough Council has agreed a deal the Government to move into the highest lockdown tier of restrictions.

The agreement will see Warrington move into tier 3 – very high risk – as rates of infection remain high.

More than 700 people tested positive in the past week and eight people have died at Warrington Hospital in the past two days.

The new rules will mirror those in neighbouring authorities Liverpool and Manchester with pubs which don't serve food forced to close. Betting shops, soft plays and adult gaming centres will also be closed.

Leisure centres, beauty and hairdressing, trampoline centres and restaurants and pubs which serve food will be exempt.

Tier three also includes guidance on only travelling outside the authority when necessary.

The council says the rule is likely to be in place at 00.01 on Thursday, although details still have to be confirmed by Government.

As revealed by the Warrington Guardian earlier this week, talks have been under way between the council and Government all week and concluded this morning.

Council leader Russ Bowden said: "We have got an issue in Warrington where the number of cases is stuck at a high level.

"We have seen the propagation of those cases into the older population.

"So the decision comes down to capacity in our hospital as well and we had to do what is right for Warrington.

"It is a tough decision to make but we have got to that point where we need to move into tier 3."

A package of financial help with see £4million available for affected businesses and around £1million given to the council to help with public health and enforcement.

Detail of how businesses can access that money will be revealed in coming days.

Warrington Guardian: Dr Jenny Harries

The deal agreed during a call with government this morning, which involved council chief executive Steven Broomhead, Cllr Bowden, Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England and Downing Street advisor Sir Ed Lister, follows proposals put forward by the council.

The restrictions will last for 28 days when they are made law, at which point they will be reviewed.

Although it is not clear how areas leave tiers.

Cllr Bowden said the priority is to support businesses.

He added: "We will be doing out upmost to support those businesses, especially in hospitality, who will be affected by the enhanced restrictions.

"Supporting businesses and protecting jobs is our priority.

"We will also say thank you to people in Warington that they have taken on board that these are necessary additonal restrictions and together, we will get this situation resolved.

"And we ask everyone to do their bit to protect yourself and your loved ones."

Matt Hancock, health secretary, had confirmed in the Commons yesterday that talks had begun 'due to the very high number of cases'.

Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols said government should do more to help authorities placed into tier 3.

Warrington Guardian:

She added: "The funding formula the government has come up with is not up for negotiation.

"It is tied to the population. I would liked to have seen Warrington given more funding before the move into tier 2.

"But the council had to accept the move because of the public health situation.

"The hospital is nearing capacity in beds and ICU beds so we had to act."

She welcomed extra money announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday, Thursday, but said money needed to be paid now rather than December.

She added: "It will be too little too late for many of the businesses contacting me.
"My job is to keep making the case in Parliament for the government to bring more money to the table for tier 3 areas."

And Ms Nichols called for there to be clearer guidance on when areas move out of tier 3.

When the restrictions come in, they will be in place for 29 days, with weekly checks, however there is no guidance on what an area needs to do to drop down a level.

She added: "You cannot ask people to adide by these draconian measures indefinitely.

"There has to be a framework in place to work towards. There was a grim inevitability to the move when Manchester and Liverpool were announced.

"Compliance is the most important thing we have got, and people have to see there is a way out. We are asking people to do things we would never have dreamed of.

"If we are going to come out of this, we have to ensure everyone is doing everything they can in terms of wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing."

Warrington South MP Andy Carter says he will be pushing for Warrington to come out of the measures as soon as possible.

Warrington Guardian:

He added: "Having sat down with the Health Minister yesterday to go through the data, this decision was inevitable as cases have continued to rise across the town.

"The weekly case rate is 341 per 100,000 population.  More worryingly is the 195 per 100,000 in over 60s, approximately twice the level of the national average. This equates to 717 cases in a seven-day period with test positivity currently at around 12%.

“With infections being wide spread in the community the impact on care workers and our local NHS is also being felt, ward staffing levels at the hospital are under pressure because staff have to self-isolate too. 

“These further restriction are designed to bring infections back under control, they’ll be reviewed in 28 days and I will push for them to be lifted as soon as infections come down. I’ve previously asked the Prime Minister to set out the criteria for reducing tier levels. It’s not just related to infection rates but also hospital admissions and capability of our local NHS to cope.

“I was pleased to see the Chancellor announce a number of measures yesterday that will support businesses across Warrington that will have to close, particularly in the hospitality sector. This includes cash grants of up to £3,000 per month for those that have to close.  There is also support for businesses who are affected but not required to close.  Warrington Borough Council is also set to receive £4.2m in Government funding to help to support local businesses with these measures.”