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On Monday, the Prime Minister made a major announcement by introducing a local three-tier system, placing different areas of the country into different levels of restrictions depending on how quickly coronavirus cases are rising there. Liverpool has been placed in the most serious “very high” risk category which means at a minimum, the closure of pubs and bars and a ban on social mixing indoors and in private gardens. Areas in the top tier will also have the power to impose additional restrictions, and in the Liverpool city region, this will also mean the closure of leisure centres, gyms, betting shops and casinos.
The new measures are being kept under review, with a four-week “sunset clause” for areas facing the toughest restrictions.
Mr Johnson has immediately come under intense pressure from the Opposition and some and local leaders throughout the country, who have demanded the new system be replaced by a national circuit-breaker lockdown lasting two-to-three weeks.
But veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil predicted the Prime Minister, with his Government already performing a number of huge U-turns during the coronavirus pandemic, could bow to this pressure as soon as the weekend.
Mail on Sunday political commentator Dan Hodges tweeted: “No10 pushing back very strongly on the idea Boris is moving towards a national circuit-breaker lockdown.”
Mr Neil wrote: “Almost certain to happen by the weekend then.
“Would make a baker’s dozen of major u-turns.”
Mr Johnson has faced a barrage of criticism over the new three-tier lockdown system, with some leading politicians warning it does not go far enough, while local leaders have warned being placed into the highest tier could destroy jobs and the economy there.
Leading scientists have suggested a short lockdown, could prevent the NHS being overwhelmed and potentially reduce the death toll this winter.
But the Prime Minister stood firm on his three-tier lockdown system during a furious clash with Labour leader in the House of Commons earlier today.
Tensions quickly surged during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions when Sir Keir backed the Government’s scientific advisory panel Sage’s call for a short national lockdown.
The Labour leader said that since the Sage advice was given on September 21, “the infection rate has quadrupled, hospital admissions have gone from 275 a day to 628 a day in England, yesterday 441 COVID patients were on ventilators and the number of deaths recorded was – tragically – the highest since June 10”.
Sir Keir said: “On September 21, the Government’s own scientific advisers, Sage, gave very clear advice – they said ‘a package of interventions including a circuit-breaker will be needed to prevent an exponential rise in cases’.
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“Why did the Prime Minister reject that advice and abandon the science?”
The Labour leader also said a circuit-break is in the “national interest”, adding: “We are at a tipping point, time is running out, maybe he can seize the moment and answer a question – this morning the Telegraph quotes senior Government sources saying the chances of the Prime Minister backing a circuit-break in the next two weeks are about 80 percent.
“Is that right? And if it is, why doesn’t he do it now, save lives, fix testing and protect the NHS?”
Mr Johnson insisted he would “rule out nothing” in the fight against coronavirus, but told Sir Keir and other MPs in the Commons he would be sticking to his localised approach.
The Prime Minister said: “The whole point is to seize this moment now to avoid the misery of another national lockdown.
“We’re going to do it – and I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus – but we are going to do it with the local, the regional, approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented.”
He also urged Labour mayors throughout the country to support the Government’s plans, and told Sir Keir: “We want to put in the most stringent measures necessary in the places where the virus is surging in order to get it down where it surging, that is the logical thing to do.
“So will he get on to his Labour friends in those parts of the north of England where we want to work with them to put those very stringent measures in place in order to deliver the reductions that the whole country wants to see?”
The Labour leader countered: “He (Mr Johnson) probably hasn’t noticed that this morning, the council leaders in Greater Manchester that he’s just quoted, including the mayor and including the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, have said in a press statement that they support a circuit-break above Tier 3 restrictions.
“Keep up, Prime Minister.”
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