Yesterday (Monday 12 October) the Government announced a new three-tiered system of local Covid alert levels in England.

South Yorkshire – including Rotherham and Barnsley – will be in tier 2, the “high” alert level.

This means that from tomorrow (Wednesday 14 October), the following rules apply:

  • People must not meet (mix or socialise) with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting
  • People must not meet (mix or socialise) in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other space
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. Walk or cycle where possible, and avoid busy times and routes on public transport

For more details about what it means to live in a high alert level area, see the Government’s website here. This may answer questions you have about childcare or running your business, for example.

Rates in Barnsley and Rotherham are rising rapidly and if that continues the Government will impose more extreme measures in our area. No one wants to see tighter restrictions so it’s important for us all to work together to control the spread of the virus, save lives and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed.

Our South Yorkshire leaders and MPs are fighting hard to get the economic support we need from the Government.

Restrictions in all three alert levels are explained in this Government document. You can also read the Prime Minister’s letter to me explaining the changes. But it is alarming that the Government’s own scientists recommended these extra measures back on 21 September, and warned that “not acting now” would “result in a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” Labour warned that the restrictions announced in September may not be sufficient.

I’m deeply reluctant to grant Government the sweeping powers in the Coronavirus Act or see people’s freedoms to move around and mix as they choose restricted. Labour MPs have successfully fought for more regular checks on legislation and for MPs to scrutinise restrictions in Parliament on behalf of the public. Legislation should only be in place for as long as it is strictly necessary, but unfortunately the most recent Covid figures in our area underline the resurgence of the virus and the need to be able to put restrictions in place to save lives.

I want to see the Government doing a better job of leading the fight against this virus – people need and deserve better. Ministers have lost control. The country’s testing system is in chaos and if you can’t test, you can’t trace or isolate and you lose control of the virus making tougher restrictions necessary as a result. I’m pleased that the Government has finally acknowledged that local councils should take more of the lead on testing and tracing.

The vast majority of people have done everything they’ve been asked to do, and I feel we’re being badly let down by Ministers.