Yorkshire metro mayor Dan Jarvis calls for urgent support amid fears of new Covid lockdown in North

Yorkshire's only metro mayor has urged the Government to deliver an urgent package of support for the region amid fears that further economic lockdown measures will soon be imposed on the North.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis called for action to help workers and businesses who see their income drop as a result of local COVID restrictions being imposed on the area.

This week, the seven-day rate for positive COVID-19 tests exceeded 100 per 100,000 across Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham, meaning the region could face additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

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As the rate of coronavirus cases almost doubled in a week, with the worst-hit areas in the North, leaders of northern cities warned that local lockdown restrictions are "not working", confusing and even "counter-productive".

Leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds warned Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not support further "economic lockdowns" and called for new powers to tackle the resurgence.

The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils - Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes - joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to write to the Health Secretary to say they are "extremely concerned" with the rise in cases.

"The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive," the Labour politicians wrote.

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Sheffield City Region mayor Dan JarvisSheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis

They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts and for a locally-controlled test and trace system.

"We want to be clear however that we do not support further economic lockdowns," the leaders added.

Professor John Edmunds, who is advising the Government's coronavirus response, joined the criticism of local measures and said new national restrictions were needed immediately.

The calls came as the UK-wide seven-day rate increased to 125.7 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people from 63.8 a week ago.

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Two-thirds of the North’s population are living under some form of local restrictions but have not received any additional Government support to mitigate the impact on business, who have seen takings and trade plummet.

Mr Jarvis, who is also an MP in Barnsley, said South Yorkshire could not afford the same mistake and called on the Treasury to take decisive action.

Sectors such as the arts, culture and hospitality have already been hit hard by the pandemic, and the region’s pubs, bars, restaurants, galleries and other leisure hotspots face losing further income in the event of additional restrictions, with no certainty of when they can return to pre-COVID levels of operating.

Mr Jarvis said: “Restrictions are necessary to stem the spread of COVID, however we have moved way beyond a local lockdown: we have been forced into a Northern shutdown, with no support for workers and employers.

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"It is hard to imagine London and the South East facing the same fate.

“South Yorkshire cannot afford to see our high streets shuttered and the lights turned off in shops and bars. If we are to see further lockdown restrictions introduced, this must go hand in hand with support for our economy, to protect jobs, businesses and self-employed workers.

"We need a local lockdown lifeline across South Yorkshire to protect jobs and keep viable businesses afloat.

“The Government must also set out a clear strategy of how we exit local restrictions and start the job of recovery and renewal in our economy and society.

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"Rather than levelling up, the Government risks doubling down on economic, health and social inequality and entrenching it for generations to come. They must deliver on their promises and not turn their back on people and businesses across South Yorkshire and the North.”

Meanwhile, tighter restrictions across the country for a short period should be considered to control the spread of coronavirus, a scientist advising the Government has said, amid growing criticism of local lockdown measures.

Professor Calum Semple, who specialises in disease outbreaks, recommended a "circuit breaker" be considered on a national basis in a bid to slow the virus, rather than trying to reduce it at a later stage.