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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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Julian quizzes Boris Johnson on York covid tier 2 restrictions at Prime Minister’s Questions

October 21, 2020

At Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Julian called for the government to share more evidence on why York was put into tier 2 covid restrictions from last Saturday, set out a roadmap for how the city can escape by driving cases down, and introduce greater support for businesses impacted.

Tier 2 (high alert) is the next level up from the tier 1 (medium alert) norm, and is meant to reduce household-to-household covid transmission, with all indoor mixing between different households prohibited.

Since York’s tier 2 announcement Julian has been pressing the government for full disclosure, beyond the headline coronavirus cases rate, of the evidence that determined the tier 2 decision, so residents can understand why this was necessary, and the city can know what has to improve to allow York to be released back to tier 1, and can follow a clear route to lower cases.

Julian also feels Ministers need to build on the existing support for covid-impacted businesses with specific support for those in tier 2, suffering declining trade from the ban on household mixing in indoor venues. Although tier 2 and tier 1 businesses can access wage subsidies to keep people on reduced hours under the government Job Support Scheme, he is concerned that York’s major tourism and hospitality industry faces being stuck in a grey area, suffering a decline in footfall driven by tier 2 measures, without being able to draw on the £3000 business grants and wage payment grants the government is providing to businesses forced to close under tier 3  (very high alert).

In the House of Commons, Julian asked: “Following the introduction of tier 2 restrictions in York, can the Prime Minister be more open in communicating the evidence base for York going into tier 2, outline a roadmap for the city’s return to tier 1, and urgently consider creation of specific support for York’s hospitality industry suffering losses  from the limbo that tier 2 is creating?”

The Prime Minister replied: “The infection rate in York alas is now running at 279 per 100,000, and we must get it down. But we can get it down, through the package of measures that we’ve described, and you can see in areas where people are complying with the guidance, that it is having an effect. And you can see that it’s having an effect, because the R (rate, at which the virus spreads) if it weren’t for the efforts and energies of the British people, the R would be running at 3 or more, it’s now between 1.2 and 1.5. It won’t take much, with compliance in those areas that are hit at the moment, to get that R back down below 1. That’s what we’re aiming for, and that is the way to get businesses across the country… in his constituency, back on their feet as fast as possible. It would not be sensible, in my view, to plunge them all back into a sustained series of national lockdowns, particularly in areas where the virus is low.”

After leaving the Commons chamber, Julian said: “Although I am happy to support reasonable restrictions where supported by evidence, I was somewhat disappointed that Boris was not more forthcoming on the detail of why York went into tier 2, and how we can improve to get out of it.

I have previously been promised a fuller explanation of the evidence base behind the decision, and having still not got this from the PM today I am following up with his office immediately, and will push until I get a clear answer. This information is important to sustain residents’ understanding and trust in the restrictions, and to give us hope that if we pull together and fulfil certain criteria, we can escape back to the relative normality of tier 1.

I was also disappointed not to get a commitment to look again at creating targeted support for York’s hospitality and tourism sector suffering big loss of trade from tier 2’s household mixing ban, building on the Treasury’s existing general measures for all tiers like the Job Support Scheme, and I hope to hear something on this from the Chancellor in his economy update to the House of Commons tomorrow.

As York residents we are doing everything we can to fight back against our local covid surge, and I will continue to be vocal in pushing for government to give us the information, tier 2 exit plan and financial support we need.”