Local leaders in Liverpool have demanded urgent clarification over why gyms have been allowed to stay open in Lancashire but forced to close in the Liverpool city region as both areas move into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.
Lancashire was announced as the second area of England to be placed under the toughest level of restrictions on Friday due to what health secretary Matt Hancock called an “unrelenting rise” in Covid-19 cases.
However, local leaders in the county managed to secure a commitment to keep gyms and leisure centres open despite the tightening rules from Saturday.
Under the restrictions, people in Lancashire will be banned from socialising with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting or private garden and all pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals.
Casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, soft play areas and adult gaming centres will also be forced to shut.
Following the announcement, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson questioned why people in Lancashire were allowed to go to gyms while people in his area were banned.
“Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire Gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpools close,” Mr Anderson wrote on Twitter.
“Inconsistent mess - we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B. Are Gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool Region?”
Steve Rotheram, mayor of the wider Liverpool city region, echoed the call for clarity on the decision.
“The Tier system was meant to offer simplicity and uniformity. Instead, we're seeing a two-tiered system of tiers emerge,” Mr Rotheram said.
“How are gym users in our region more at risk than others? We were given no say in gym closures but this is just wrong.”
Areas placed into Tier 3 of the local Covid alert levels are all subject to a set of fixed restrictions, such as bans on households mixing and the closures of pubs and bars, according to government guidance.
The guidance also notes that some additional restrictions, such as the closure of gyms, leisure centres and public buildings, can be introduced.
It adds that ministers will “seek to agree additional interventions in consultation with local authorities”, based on evidence they have received on the spread of Covid-19 infections in certain areas.
However, both Liverpool leaders have argued this week that the restrictions were imposed on the area rather than agreed with local officials, with Mr Anderson claiming on Friday that it was “an absolute blatant lie” to say they supported the package of measures.
In response to the criticism, a government spokesperson told The Independent: “Soft play and car boot sales, which remain open in Merseyside, are closed in Lancashire, whereas the opposite is the case for gyms.
“Arcades, betting shops and casinos are closed in both areas.”
They added: “Intensive discussions with local leaders in both areas identified those which should close in each.
“We have been clear that additional interventions above the baseline for Very High alert areas are subject to consultation with local authorities based on local evidence.”
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