This morning, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Greater Manchester would remain under Tier 3 COVID restrictions.
Hopes had been high among city leaders that Manchester could be downgraded from the “Very High” alert level of Tier 3 to “High” Tier 2 after a significant drop in the number of coronavirus rates across the region, meaning hospitality businesses such as hotels, restaurants and pubs serving food would be able to reopen for Christmas.
So what has the reaction been to the news that Manchester faces tougher restrictions until the new year?
“I cannot say that this announcement is not bitterly disappointing so close to Christmas,” said Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council.
“For many of our businesses the possibility of trading, even in a limited way, would have been a brief respite in what has been a devastating year.
“So many sectors of our economy have faced disappointment after disappointment this year, made worse by a Government unresponsive to the dire situation they were in.
“As a Council we will continue to fight for them and to ensure a fair deal for the people who make our city the vibrant and thriving place it is.
“Additionally, without a COVID-safe hospitality offer during Christmas week we now run the risk of people finding other ways to socialise which will only increase the number of infections.
“Businesses are trying as hard as they can to find ways to comply but with the goalposts constantly moving it is becoming an impossible task.
“Had this decision been made a few weeks ago I’m certain we would be in Tier 2.
“As frustrating as this decision is, I would urge everyone to continue following COVID guidelines.
“Ultimately the quickest way for rules to be relaxed in the future is if we keep driving down infection rates.
“If we do this Manchester will build back stronger, faster and better than before.”
‘Thank you to Manchester’
“Firstly, a big thank you to Manchester,” said David Regan, Director of Public Health for Manchester.
“The rates of new COVID-19 cases have been steadily falling in recent weeks, and that is down to Manchester people playing their part and following the rules carefully to keep each other safe.
“Remaining in Tier 3 is no reflection on how well the rules have been adhered to and although this will no doubt be frustrating for some, it’s vitally important that we do not let our resolve slip now.
“We must keep infection rates down and protect the NHS, our hospitals and care homes through into the New Year.
“If you are going to see family or friends over the Christmas period, please plan ahead in order to limit the risk of transmission as much as possible.
“Think about your contacts with your older relatives and friends, along with people with underlying health conditions.
“We all want to protect those most at risk from the virus before the vaccine programme is fully rolled out.”
‘Stuck in limbo’
“I am disappointed in today’s decision to keep Greater Manchester in Tier 3,” said Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester.
We had an extremely strong argument to be moved into Tier 2, with lowering infection rates across the region, however yet again we are stuck in limbo with no clear guidance on how to escape.
I’m gutted not only for hospitality operators across Greater Manchester, but for those across all regions who have been moved or resigned to stay in Tier 3.
Together with greater financial aid to prevent these businesses going under, I continue to call on the Government to show us the evidence that merits their closure.
Christmas is the busiest time of year for everyone who works in food and beverage.
“Not just the bars and restaurants but suppliers, security staff, musicians and hundreds of thousands of others.
“They now face a Christmas of upset, worry and stress.
The health and safety of the public must come first, but the closure of pubs, restaurants and bars will not stop the virus spreading.
“It only serves to push people to socialise indoors, where there are no COVID regulations, no hourly cleaning policies, no social distancing.
Looking at the current evidence, the closure of hospitality could in fact result in more infections.”
‘Keep our communities safe’
“The people of Manchester have worked so hard to push down the rate of infection in the city, but as has been the case so many times this year the decisions on our fate are not in our own hands,” said Joanne Roney, OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council.
“While this news is not what we wanted to hear Mancunians are resilient, something proved beyond all doubt this year.
“Our focus now has to be on making our Christmas and New Year as safe as possible.
“As ever I would ask all of our residents to follow the guidelines around handwashing, the wearing of masks and socially distancing.
“By doing so we will keep our communities safe and continue to push towards the relaxing of COVID restrictions.”