COVID lockdowns were thrown into chaos today after a mayor declared war on tough new restrictions – and vowed: “We will defy the government.”
Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston fought back after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the latest measures in a Commons address.
A ban on different households meeting will be introduced after a spike in infections.
It will be illegal to meet in settings, such as pubs and restaurants, in the Liverpool City Region, Warrington and Hartlepool.
Today’s news means around 20million people across the UK are now living under local lockdown restrictions.
But Mr Preston vowed not to obey the new rules.
In an angry Twitter video he fumed: “We tried to communicate with govt but they didn’t listen.
“They’re imposing restrictions that’ll kill viable jobs & damage mental health I do not accept the government’s intended restrictions – they’re based on ignorance.”
He accused Mr Hancock of acting with a “monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance.
His words are likely to spark a rebellion and throw the local lockdowns into chaos.
Mr Preston went on: “The Government has just made an announcement about strict measures coming into Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.
“I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance.
“I don’t accept the statement at all, I don’t accept the measures, we need to talk to Government they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done and preserve jobs and wellbeing.
“We’re really disappointed. As things stand we defy the Government and do not accept these measures.
“We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.
But Downing Street insisted that local leaders had been in the loop.
The PM’s spokesperson said local leaders had been in the loop about the plans.
He said: “It was determined that this was the right package of measures in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
“We will take advice from local Public Health bodies and there will be discussions with local leaders.
“We fully recognise the measures of the impact have on people’s lives, but we must all act collectively to bring down the infection rate.”
Former hedge fund manager Mr Preston, 54, was elected as an independent candidate as MIddlesbrough mayor in May last year.
Pub boss Sarah Best backed the Middlesbrough mayor over the Government.
Sarah, 28, owner of Sherlock’s and Dr Watson’s bars, said she feared she may have to close the doors in as little as three weeks.
She said: “When people can only go the pub with members of their own household it’s obviously going to reduce trade even more.
“The 10pm curfew has been bad enough and it doesn’t work. People gather in the street and can’t get taxis because everyone has to leave at once.
“We’re just hanging on and if things don’t change I might have to close the doors in three weeks, that’s how bad it is.
“I really think customers will rebel, especially if the mayor is backing us.
“We’lll listen to Andy, we get more support and back from the Mayor than we do from government.
“How do you enforce this rule anyway? I’m not going to be asking customers for utility bills.”
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the extra measures in his constituency were “inevitable” and household mixing was the “root” cause of a rise in cases.
He said: “The further restrictions for Middlesbrough and Hartlepool announced today are sadly inevitable.
“I’ve said before that no-one welcomes further restrictions, but we on Teesside sit next to seven neighbouring North East local authorities where tighter restrictions have been imposed for some time now because of worryingly high rates of Covid-19.
“It’s only 13 miles from Middlesbrough to Sedgefield in County Durham and the virus is clearly in circulation right across the NE region at levels that are concerning and the virus pays no heed to the local authority borders between County Durham and the Tees Valley local authority areas.
“Middlesbrough rates are consistently above 100 cases per 100,000 – albeit a welcome but slight reduction in the last 24 hours – and sadly the tighter restrictions around household mixing are necessary as the data is telling us that people mixing across households is the root of the increases we’ve been seeing.
“Of course, I am worried about how long these restrictions might go on for. But the sooner we take action to suppress the virus in our area, the better chance we have of seeing the rates drop and consequently an earlier relaxation of the restrictions.
“People are understandably concerned about the availability of tests and the system is sadly still far from running fully and efficiently which only serves to reinforce the need for us all to do everything in our power to stop the further spread of the virus.”
The Health Secretary revealed the news to MPs today – but they won’t get to vote on them.
He warned today that cases continue to rise in Teeside, the North West and the North East of England, which has prompted more action.
There are 268 coronavirus cases per 100,000 in Liverpool in the moment, he warned.
£7million in extra funding will be given to local authorities to help them with the latest measures, he said.