LEADERS across Cheshire have signed a letter to Government calling for tougher lockdown restrictions.

The letter, addressed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, says the current lockdown is the ‘minimum necessary to address the alarming acceleration’ of Covid.

But the leaders of Cheshire East, West, Warrington and Halton councils, plus police and crime commissioner David Keane and local enterprise chairman Clare Hayward, insist the current measures are not tough enough.

They say there is now an ‘ambiguity between regulations and guidelines’ damaging compliance and making challenges for enforcement – in contrast with the ‘simple and effective message’ seen last spring, which they say led to widespread public compliance.

The letter says: “For example, regulations enable people to exercise far from home, congregate in beauty-spots and public places, and travel for click-and-collect shopping.

“The more liberal interpretation of lockdown in the current regulations means that many more people are required to work away from home, increasing the risks that their communities will continue to be disproportionately affected.

“Travel in private and public transport is more significant than in the previous lockdowns. We also have evidence that mask-wearing is not sufficiently enforceable in indoor public places, or in outdoor areas where people are in close proximity.

"We would support additional national measures that tighten these areas further, to be implemented alongside further financial support for businesses and their employees, and the self-employed."

The leaders – including Labour members Cllr Sam Corcoran from CEC, Cllr Louise Gittins from CWAC, Cllr Russ Bowden from Warrington and Cllr Rob Polhill from Halton, as well as independent CEC deputy leader Cllr Craig Browne – also called for any ‘premature lifting’ of lockdown to be avoided.

This follows the month experienced across Cheshire last December, when following the lifting of lockdown Cheshire East, West and Warrington were placed in Tier 2, but were moved to Tier 3 before Christmas and Tier 4 on Boxing Day.

The letter also calls for continued investment in lateral flow testing for asymptomatic residents, with programmes recently getting under way across the county.

Cheshire’s leaders did welcome the progress made on vaccinations, but criticised ‘confusion’ over a letter sent to some people aged over 80 about the regional vaccine site at the Etihad Campus, in Manchester.

The letter added: “For most of our over-80s, attendance at the Manchester city centre site is not a viable or safe option, and we will need a greater focus on more accessible and community-based sites if progress is to be made rapidly.”

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