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Tougher coronavirus restrictions begin for nearly 6 million in England and Wales

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/10/2020 Sean Morrison
a person walking down a street next to a building © Provided by Evening Standard

Stricter coronavirus rules are coming into force for nearly six million people within the next 24 hours.

Greater Manchester moved into the highest alert level , Tier 3, on Friday morning, and Wales will introduce its two-week "firebreak" lockdown at 6pm.

Coventry, Stoke and Slough will enter Tier 2 on Saturday , while talks between Westminster and Nottingham over possible Tier 3 restrictions are continue on Friday.

Under Tier 3 measures in Greater Manchester, pubs and bars will be closed, unless they are serving substantial meals, for a 28-day period, along with casinos, bingo halls and bookies.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an emergency multi-billion pound bailout on Thursday aimed at supporting workers and firms through the second coronavirus wave.

The Job Support Scheme, which replaces the current furlough system from November 1, will be made more generous in an effort to persuade firms to keep staff in work.

There will also be grants of up to £2,100 a month available for firms in Tier 2 areas of England, aimed at helping hospitality and leisure venues which have seen takings plummet due to restrictions on households mixing.

The package could cost the Exchequer around £13 billion over six months.

Two women drink in an empty bar on Dale Street in Manchester city centre, northwest England ahead of new coronavirus restrictions coming into force on October 22, 2020. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher coronavirus restrictions on an area of the northewest of England after placing Greater Manchester into the government's tier 3, the highest coronavirus alert level, defying local leaders who bitterly opposed the move without extra funding. The extra restrictions which servely limits social mixing in hospitality venues will come into effect on October 23, 2020. (Photo by Anthony Devlin / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images) Two women drink in an empty bar on Dale Street in Manchester city centre, northwest England ahead of new coronavirus restrictions coming into force on October 22, 2020. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher coronavirus restrictions on an area of the northewest of England after placing Greater Manchester into the government's tier 3, the highest coronavirus alert level, defying local leaders who bitterly opposed the move without extra funding. The extra restrictions which servely limits social mixing in hospitality venues will come into effect on October 23, 2020. (Photo by Anthony Devlin / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images) It came as the Prime Minister acknowledged that the test and trace system, which he previously promised would be "world beating", needed to be improved.

He said turnaround times for tests needed to be faster, after it emerged that just one in seven people having a test at a centre get their result back in 24 hours.

The Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also said problems with the system could be "diminishing the effectiveness" and there was "room for improvement".

A total of 101,494 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to October 14, according to the latest Test and Trace figures, the highest weekly figure since the system was launched in late May.

But just 59.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the Test and Trace system, its worst performance yet.

Gallery: Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak around the world (Photo Services)

The Chancellor's package of extra support, announced just days after London was moved into Tier 2, provoked fury from northern politicians who have seen their economies suffer due to long-standing coronavirus curbs.

In an effort to address that criticism, Mr Sunak said the business grants will be available retrospectively for areas which have already been subject to restrictions since August, and come on top of higher levels of additional business support for areas moving into Tier 3.

Around 150,000 businesses in England could be eligible, the Treasury said, at a potential cost of more than £1 billion.

The changes to the Job Support Scheme will apply across the country and could cost the Exchequer £6 billion if two million people take up the offer for the entire six months of the scheme.

Instead of only being open to people in "viable" jobs working a third of their normal hours, it will now cover employees doing just 20 per cent of their usual work who will receive at least 73 per cent of their usual pay.

The amount that employers are required to pay to top up their wages has also been reduced to just 5 per cent of unworked hours, down from 33 per cent.

Extra help for the self-employed will see the amount covered by grants increase from 20 per cent of profits to 40 per cent, meaning the maximum payout will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.

This will amount to a potential further £3.1 billion of support to the self-employed through November to January, with a further grant to follow covering February to April.

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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