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Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, has announced that York will be placed in Tier 2 once the latest lockdown ends on 2 December.
York, according to Sky News’s estimates, joins just over 57% of the population in remaining in Tier 2. Tier 2 is the default tier for the majority of the country. However, it should be noted that York remains in a much strengthened and altered Tier 2 and that the hospitality sector has received a greater tightening of restrictions.
Under the new Tier 2 restrictions, bars and restaurants that don’t serve “substantial meals” must close. The government hasn’t been completely transparent in what a “substantial meal” consists of and the Local Government Association has indicated that the condition will most likely be “open to interpretation and there is a degree of flexibility in what constitutes as a meal”. It is likely that most establishments will interpret a “substantial meal” as ordering breakfast, lunch or an evening meal. Julian Sturdy, the York Outer MP, has in the past expressed frustration with the restrictions that have been placed on the city and before Hancock’s announcement today he made the Health Secretary aware of the fact that York’s “Covid rate is considerably lower than when we entered Tier 2, and one of the lowest in our region”.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Sturdy pressed the government to “publish the assessment and data so we can best judge how to get into Tier 1”. York’s allocation to Tier 2 will likely provoke discontent from the hospitality sector and local residents. The York Press recently conducted a poll in which they asked readers what they believed was the appropriate tier for York to be assigned. 55 per cent of readers responded that Tier 1 would be the best fit for the city, as opposed to 34 per cent opting for the city to remain in Tier 2.
The other restrictions that characterise Tier 2 include: no mixing indoors, a maximum meeting of 6 persons outdoors, travel to Tier 3 areas should be avoided unless for work and education purposes and overnight stays should only be with those that are in the same household. The curfew time of 10pm has been extended to 11pm for pubs, although the time for last orders to be taken remains the same as before.
The York Central MP Rachael Maskell has greeted the government’s announcement with scepticism and has highlighted that its effect will be a “serious blow for many businesses that are struggling at this time”. However, Maskell’s statement did acknowledge that only three areas have been placed in Tier 1 and Hancock has stressed that the government isn’t adverse to future alterations to the Tier system and has said that the measures “will be reviewed in a fortnight”, giving hope to York that returning to Tier 1 could still be a realistic prospect before Christmas.