Residents in Nottingham and surrounding boroughs have been urged to keep showing “resilience” ahead of new Tier 3 controls coming into force.
Tougher Covid-19 rules for Nottingham city and the Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe borough council areas will come into force on Thursday.
Nottingham will join Warrington as well as the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and South Yorkshire in having fresh restrictions imposed in Tier 3.
The finer details of the measures were expected to be outlined on Tuesday but appeared to be delayed.
A joint statement from the councils involved as well as Nottinghamshire County Council said: “We appreciate that our communities and businesses are awaiting clarity and certainty about how the Tier 3 measures will impact on them.
“We await confirmation from government about their progress in drafting the necessary legislation for Nottingham, Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe. At the earliest opportunity, we will publish details of the measures and package of support.”
Under blanket pre-existing Tier 3 measures, bars and pubs in the city will have to close unless they serve substantial meals.
Households will also be banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens, affecting some 700,000 people across the city and three neighbouring local authority areas.
A package of financial support measures for affected businesses and workers, agreed with Government, will be put in place, in line with other areas where Tier 3 measures have been imposed.
It is understood that councils managed to convince ministers to allow gyms, cinemas, theatres, hair salons and barber shops to remain open, during a week of intensive negotiations over specific controls for the area.
Rushcliffe Borough Council leader Simon Robinson told the PA news agency he believes the measures are supported by a “majority” of residents.
He said people are showing “a lot of resilience, because people understand we need to get on top of the virus”.
Detailed control measures for areas like the hospitality industry are expected to be announced by the Government some time after 5pm, he added, following days of negotiations with councils.
Mr Robinson said he expected a formal announcement “this evening”.
On any specific measures, he added: “We’ve taken the generic set of measures that they have for Tier 3.
“More specifically (those measures) are around things like hospitality, retail, serving of alcohol, for instance and those are specific ones we’ve been negotiating with Government.”
Shedding some light on the negotiations, Councillor John Clarke, Gedling Borough Council’s leader, told PA local authorities had acted with a “united front”.
He added gyms had been a “hot topic” but said “we managed to turn that round yesterday and we’re very pleased that we did”.
“One of the other contentious things was about cinemas and we’ve got a small cinema and theatre, reduced down from 200 seats to 25, and people are thoroughly enjoying it,” said Cllr Clarke.
“We’ve got one of the few pantomimes left in the city, up at Nottingham Playhouse – so we’ve saved the panto.”
He added the councils “didn’t quite succeed” on getting an allowance for visiting hairdressers, but there was agreement on salon-based premises “staying open” as well as visiting podiatrists operating.
Councils had also been keen to pin down “an exit strategy”, securing a 28-day review date.
Cllr Clarke added: “I am hopeful everybody will pull together, get on the right end of the rope, pull it and let’s get this sorted in 28 days
“Failing that, there will be dozens of businesses going to the wall.”
Mr Robinson explained the economic package on offer was in “two sides”, with more money for councils’ enforcement teams to make sure people follow the rules and grants for affected businesses.
“Our offices are working right now to make sure we can get that money out there as quickly as possible to the businesses that will desperately need it once restrictions are announced,” he said.
The announcement of south Nottinghamshire’s measures also promised a review after 28 days, with Mr Robinson saying that will be a regular process.
He said: “We’ll all be analysing that data to see what impact the restrictions are actually having.
“We do need to see it come down, not plateau. Plateau won’t be good enough.
“We’ve got to actually see these infection rates coming down, particularly in the over-60s.”
Masked shoppers in Nottingham on Tuesday ahead of the region being moved into Tier 3 (Joe Giddens/PA)Although people are resilient, Mr Robinson said residents are “weary”.
“It’s getting dark outside, it’s winter, there’s more restrictions, and particularly business owners are really wary of this period coming up in terms of what effect it’s going to have on there,” he said.
“What I’ve seen consistently is that people understand that we have to get a grip on this virus.
“Not just the virus itself but also the effect it’s having on our hospitals.”
Last week, the head of the NHS trust which runs Nottingham’s two main hospitals said some non-urgent surgery and appointments would have to be cancelled because of a spike in Covid-19 admissions.
Mr Robinson said: “When there are hundreds of people in hospitals with Covid – we’ve seen ICU beds usage increasing – people really understand that and it becomes very real and that’s where people are very fearful.”
He added there are “huge concerns about the capacity of the hospitals” when new infections “could mean a hospital admission in three weeks’ time”.
Mr Robinson added: “We’ve got two months before Christmas.
“I am confident, if we get on top of these restrictions, get compliance from business from our residents, we are going to see the infection rate coming down and going in the right direction.
“If that is the case, I am sure we’ll get the support from Government to actually start to reduce these restrictions and give people that freedom and get some enjoyment out of Christmas.”
Visitors to Nottingham city centre have been reacting to the announcement of the tough new measures, with one calling them “necessary”.
Carl Bellamy, who is retired, said he believes the measures will be effective if people obey the rules.
On the possibility of a four-week review of the measures, he said: “The hard-stop date to review it is quite right.
“Statistically, you have to have that amount of time to show any real result don’t you?
“But I think to review it after a month is quite right.”
Jason Weliczko, who has run the popular Nottingham city centre Robin Hood baked potato shack for 29 years, said he fears the R-rate will simply rise again after Tier 3 restrictions are lifted.
He said: “Even if we have this Tier 3 for 28 days, the R-rate might come down a fraction maybe but what’s going to happen after 28 days?
“It’ll come back up again.”