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People in Liverpool are anxious about the coming months – and they are right to be

Written by on 14/10/2020

In Fazakerley, one of Liverpool’s most deprived neighbourhoods, community worker Maureen Delahunty-Kehoe and a group of volunteers are busy unloading a delivery of new clothes to hand out to the homeless, local schools and others in need. 

The local food bank, also run from the local community centre, has helped hundreds of families stay afloat during the first lockdown and now they are stocking up as they prepare for the second wave to hit.

The Liverpool City Region was on Wednesday the first place in England to be put into the very high risk tier.

Across the region, bars and pubs not serving meals have been forced to shut and household mixing has been all but banned.

The community centre's shelves are well-stocked
Image: The community centre’s shelves are well-stocked

Maureen is anxious about the coming months. And she is right to be. Liverpool has the third-highest number of COVID-19 hospital admissions in Europe, and more than 95% of the city’s intensive care beds are occupied.

“It’s terrifying, I nearly lost my dad through this and it’s pretty terrifying. The way people are going to come out of this are different extremes. Some people will be massively affected by this, some people have buried people,” she tells me as we chat over boxes of cereal and cans of coke in the community centre’s well-stocked food bank.

“It’s scary to think we haven’t got it under control, we haven’t got the proper measures in place.”

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There is concern among these volunteers over the track and trace system and scepticism over whether the latest round of restrictions will do the job if they applied more widely beyond their own patch.

There is dismay too over the lack of any exit plan from our current COVID-19 predicament.

The volunteers here are more drawn to a circuit breaker plan – adopted this week by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – drawn up by the government’s own scientific advisors.

“We need to go into a total lockdown,” volunteer Dave Kelly tells me. “Not Liverpool, not Merseyside, not the Liverpool city region – we need to lockdown the whole country.

“Unfortunately I think the vast majority of Liverpool will probably think the government is more concerned with protecting the economy than its citizens.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself says he is trying to tread a narrow path between the “social and economic trauma of full lockdown and the massive human and indeed economic cost of an uncontained epidemic”.

He hopes his regional approach of local lockdowns will protect the economy.

The obvious risk is the way in which it carves up the country and divides communities between those caught in lockdown and those who are still relatively free.

The people I spoke to in Liverpool feel aggrieved.

It feeds into suspicion in this Labour stronghold that the Conservative government is leaving them behind.

Decisions being made in Westminster are having real life-changing impacts on millions of people who live across the north – from Rochdale to Liverpool, Wigan and Leeds.

On Thursday, millions more people in this part of the world might find their lives changing again as the government weighs up whether to put Greater Manchester and Lancashire into Tier 3.

The food bank is run from a local community centre,
Image: The food bank is run from a local community centre,

Local leaders led by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham are fighting fought against it, arguing that their local businesses and communities need more financial support.

“We are not going to cave in. They will have to impose it,” said Mr Burnham on Wednesday.

Local leaders are having a call with Number 10 on Thursday morning to discuss the picture on the ground – although government figures told me on Wednesday night no decisions had been made on moving Greater Manchester and Lancashire in the highest tier.

The numbers are “bad” and action is needed, is how one government figure put it to me. Ministers want to take regional leaders with them – but not at any cost.

Decisions to be made as divisions between Westminster and cities up and down the UK become more acutely felt. Earlier in the year we were all in it together but now we are growing ever more apart.

Ours now a country divided not just over how best to beat the second wave, but in how are being forced to live.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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