Shops and bars face closure as Boris confirms new ‘traffic light’ system

Watch: Boris Johnson announces a new ‘traffic light’ COVID-19 alert system

Pubs and bars in Liverpool face closure from Wednesday, after UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced tougher new restrictions to tackle the the COVID-19 second wave.

Johnson on Monday confirmed a new three tier “traffic light” system of local restrictions. Speaking in parliament on Monday afternoon, Johnson said the new alert levels would “simplify and standardise” the existing patchwork of local lockdown rules.

Each level — “medium,” “high,” and “very high” — involves escalating restrictions. Most areas in England will automatically move to the “medium” alert level, the prime minister said. This involves restricting people to socialising in groups of no more than six and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.

Under the “very high” alert level, pubs and bars will be ordered shut. Local leaders will also have discretionary powers to order other non-essential businesses to close.

The prime minister confirmed Merseyside would be placed in the “very high” alert level from Wednesday. Pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres, casinos, and betting shops will be among the businesses told to shut.

Prime minister Boris Johnson making a statement in the House of Commons in London, setting out a new three-tier system of controls for coronavirus in England. Photo: PA

Over 1,400 businesses in Liverpool will be hit by the changes, according to analysis of official government data by the real estate adviser Altus Group.

Johnson said he took “no pleasure whatsoever” announcing further restrictions on businesses but said the measures were necessary “to save lives.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK hospitality industry to take legal action against lockdown rules

The new “traffic light” system of restrictions, as they have been dubbed, come in response to a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK. New cases have risen from around 800 per day at the start of August to over 14,000 today.

Johnson said he was taking a “balanced approach” with the new three-tier system that would involve “saving lives, protecting the NHS, while keeping our children in school and keeping the economy running.” Retail businesses will remain open at any alert level and restaurants can continue to operate.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced financial support for businesses and staff hit by local lockdowns. Employees can access a localised version of the furlough scheme, while businesses ordered to shut can claim grants of up to £3,000 ($4,820).

A TV screen at Richmond Pub in Liverpool, England, shows UK prime minister Boris Johnson delivering his statement to the House of Commons in London. Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Business leaders and owners said the support would not be enough to stop businesses failing.

Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “Intensified restrictions will be a real blow to business and public confidence at a delicate time for the economy.

“Businesses cannot be subjected to a rollercoaster of stop-start restrictions with no end in sight.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said the government should “show its workings and evidence base for new restrictions.”

READ MORE: UK chancellor announces ‘local furlough’ scheme and business grants

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Cherpeau said businesses across the city were “bewildered, frustrated and angry.”

Jez Lamb, the founder of Merseyside-based online craft beer shop Beers @ No.42, said: “Striking the right balance is proving a nightmare and as things stand many more businesses will go to the wall and many more people will lose their jobs.”

Merseyside has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country, with almost 600 cases per 100,000 residents.

WATCH: What help businesses and employees can expect?

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