'Confusing' new lockdown rules ending ban on garden visits come into force in Black Country

Ministers have been slammed for bringing in "confusing" new lockdown rules which are doing "nothing" to help the fight against coronavirus.

New lockdown rules are in place for Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Solihull and Birmingham
New lockdown rules are in place for Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Solihull and Birmingham

Under new rules starting today, people in Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Birmingham and Solihull are banned from mixing with others from outside their household in any indoor setting.

However, people are now allowed to visit friends and relatives in their gardens.

This marks a change from the previous restrictions in force in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Birmingham and Solihull, where people were banned from visiting others in homes or gardens.

Covid-19 alert levels in England

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said it was frustrating that people were being given "confusing" restrictions that did not seem to be based on evidence.

He said the relaxation on the garden visits restriction would be of little help to many people in the Black Country, where a "high proportion" of residents live in flats and terraced housing.

He also said meeting in gardens was "not exactly" ideal during the cold winter months.

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Mr Spellar said: "The problem fundamentally is that the Government is losing control of virus and they are desperate to be seen to be doing something.

"They are going for easy hits without really checking whether they are going to be effective. It is government by panic and it is doing nothing to help the fight against the virus.

"It is certainly hot helping businesses, residents or society in general."

Speaking in the Commons yesterday Mr Spellar was one of a number of MPs who demanded to see evidence backing up the case for the curfew and lockdown on the hospitality sector.

He said pubs, clubs and restaurants and other venues were facing "closures, a cash crisis and jobs losses.

Warley's Labour MP John Spellar

Mr Spellar said: "Ministers have to either secure a change in direction of Government lockdown policy, or up the level of support. Which is it going to be?"

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that since the 10pm compulsory closing time had come in there had been a reduction in late night admissions to A&E departments.

He said this was evidence that the "rule is working". Mr Hancock said that even if people mixed outside after leaving at 10pm, it was "safer being outside".

Other governments had imposed similar policies, he said, adding that the Government has decided to put limits on hospitality to protect education.

Meanwhile business leaders across the region have described new restrictions on the hospitality sector as "unenforceable".

Sham Sharma, the chairman of Wolverhampton Business Forum, who runs Zuri Coffee in Lichfield Street, said: "We feel that the new restrictions have really left us high and dry.

"My takings yesterday were less than £100 – down from about £500. It doesn't even cover expenses.

"We are all complying with the restrictions but the Government is making it very hard for businesses to survive.

"I don't see how we supposed to know if people coming into our premises are from different households. How do you police that?"

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