Boris Johnson will outline a new three-tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on Monday that is expected to cause pubs and restaurants to shut across the north of England.
Mr Johnson will reveal the full details of the much-anticipated approach in a statement to the House of Commons, following criticism of the Government for not keeping MPs properly informed of changes.
The news comes after the Prime Minister’s chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister wrote to northern MPs following a meeting with leaders from the North on Friday to warn them it was “very likely” the region would be hit with tougher rules.
Workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two thirds of their wages paid by the Government in a new financial scheme announced by the Chancellor earlier on Friday.
Rishi Sunak said the expansion of the Job Support Scheme would protect jobs and provide “reassurance and a safety net” for people and businesses across the UK in advance of a potentially “difficult winter”.
In the letter to northern leaders, which has been shared online, Sir Edward stated that “rising incidence” of Covid in parts of the country mean it is “very likely” that certain local areas will face “further restrictions”.
The letter added that the Prime Minister believed local leaders should “help shape the package of measures in the most concerning areas”.
The Government will discuss “difficult choices” with local leaders, the letter stated.
A further 13,864 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Friday, and 87 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.
Nottingham has the highest rate in England, with 760.6 cases per 100,000 people – a huge jump from 158.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 29.
Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has leapt from 391.1 to 657.6 per 100,000, while Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has also increased sharply, from 419.0 to 599.9.
Separate figures suggested coronavirus cases are doubling about twice as fast in the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands as for the whole of England.
Mr Sunak insisted that the new support was “very different” to furlough, which he previously declined to extend – arguing it was “fundamentally wrong” to hold people in jobs that only existed inside the scheme.
But mayors from the north of England said the new measures appeared not to go “far enough” to prevent “genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter”.
The support, which launches on November 1 and lasts for six months, will see the Government pay two thirds of each employee’s salary – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month – if their employer is legally required to close their premises because of restrictions.
Businesses will be able to claim the grant when they are subject to restrictions and employees are off work for at least seven consecutive days. Venues which are already legally closed, such as nightclubs, will also be eligible.
A Treasury source said the scheme was expected to cost “hundreds of millions a month” but that costings would depend on “how things develop” across different sectors and areas of the country.
Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages, but will be asked to cover national insurance and pension contributions.
🗣️ "What has been announced by the Chancellor today is a start but, on first look, it would not appear to have gone far enough."
— Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) October 9, 2020
Ministers will also increase cash grants to businesses in England which are forced to close to support with fixed costs, with the grants linked to rateable values. Up to £3,000 per month will be payable every fortnight, the Treasury said.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis and mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram used a joint statement to warn the help may not be enough.
They said: “We are pleased that the Government has listened and recognised that any new system of restrictions must come with a substantial package of financial support.
“What has been announced by the Chancellor today is a start but, on first look, it would not appear to have gone far enough to prevent genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter.
“Mayors and leaders from across the north will be meeting tomorrow to discuss it in more detail and we will make a further statement then.”