Coronavirus: Manchester fights off government threat to close its pubs and bars, after local protests

Metro mayor Andy Burnham speaks of relief, saying: ‘We are pleased the government has listened’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 12 October 2020 15:35
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Greater Manchester will be placed in the middle tier of restrictions, allowing bars to stay open - for now
Greater Manchester will be placed in the middle tier of restrictions, allowing bars to stay open - for now

Manchester has fought off a government threat to close all its pubs and bars – even as they are closed 30 miles away in Merseyside.

Andy Burnham, the metro mayor, spoke off his relief after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told local MPs he was stepping back from the draconian action, for now.

“We are pleased the government has listened to what I and the ten [council] leaders have said consistently throughout this,” Mr Burnham said.

Greater Manchester will be placed in the middle tier of restrictions when the new system is confirmed by Boris Johnson later, with people told not to mix with other households indoors.

In contrast, Merseyside – where infection rates are rising even more sharply – has accepted its fate, as possibly the only area to be placed in ‘tier 3’ at present.

Joe Anderson said restaurants would be able to remain open until 10pm, even if pubs and bars across the six boroughs of the city-region are shut.

David Baines, the leader of St Helens, one of those six boroughs, suggested pubs serving “substantial meals” might be allowed to remain open.

The decision to keep Manchester’s pubs open came after night-time economy leaders launched a legal challenge over the threat of a draconian lockdown.

Sacha Lord, who advises Greater Manchester on its night life, said lawyers had been instructed to seek a judicial review into any further restrictions on hospitality and entertainment venues across the North.

The measures had “no scientific rationale” and could have a “catastrophic impact" on late-night businesses, trade body The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warned.

Birmingham has also been placed in tier 2, as Nottingham is believed to have been – despite having the highest Covid-19 infection rate in England.

It is understood that ministers are considering Manchester’s request for ‘summary closure powers’, allowing councils to shut down any business not abiding by safe Covid rules instantly.

Around £9m of extra government funds are thought to be heading to the area, as part of a move towards localising the contact tracing system.

Some Greater Manchester MPs expressed anger about a “shambolic” briefing by Mr Hancock – with Wigan’s Lisa Nandy not invited, because ministers mis-read the map, she suggested.

Navendu Mishra, the Stockport MP, tweeted: “Just 21 minutes notice by Matt Hancock for his Covid19 briefing. Complete disdain by this government for all those who live and work in Greater Manchester.”

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