COUNCIL leaders across Merseyside have warned potential new Covid-19 restrictions aimed at halting the virus' spread will deal a hammer blow to the region's economy.

The region was placed under local lockdown measures two weeks ago, following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Merseyside is expecting an announcement on further coronavirus lockdown restrictions, which could see region under the same rules as the North East, where a ban currently in place on households mixing in private homes and gardens has been extended to all indoor settings, including pubs, bars and restaurants, with exception of those in support bubbles.

At this stage, though, it is unclear when any more restrictions would be announced.

In a joint statement this afternoon Steve Rotheram Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region; Cllr Rob Polhill Leader of Halton Council; Joe Anderson OBE, Mayor of Liverpool; Cllr Graham Morgan Leader of Knowsley Council; Cllr Ian Maher Leader of Sefton Council; Cllr David Baines Leader of St Helens Council and Cllr Janette Williamson Leader of Wirral Council, called for financial support from the Government to help protect the businesses that provide the livelihoods and jobs upon which the region's 1.6 million residents depend before any further lockdown restrictions are imposed.

Mr Rotheram has repeatedly said there should be no local restrictions in place without proper funding for those they will affect.

Their letter reads: “As Leaders of the Liverpool City Region, we all understand why further restrictions may be needed to halt the spread of Covid-19 in the communities we represent.

“Cases are now averaging well over 200 per 100,000 people across our region – in some boroughs, much higher. Throughout the pandemic, we have always put the health of our residents first and we will continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of Coronavirus and keep as many people as possible safe.

“However, at the same time, we must be clear that any further restrictions will deal a hammer blow to our economy.

“Our region is an international destination, and our visitor economy is worth almost £5bn to the city region economy every year, employing over 50,000 people.

"Over recent years, our hospitality and retail industries have been vibrant and growing. But, in the last six months, we have already seen many of these businesses go under in the face of Covid-19 and, without Government assistance over the past few months, many more would have followed.

“While we protect lives, and our NHS, we must act now to protect the businesses that provide the livelihoods and jobs upon which our 1.6 million residents depend.

“And we must also act to protect the public services on which our communities depend. Our public services have been on the front line of Covid-19 response, but this comes at a huge cost.

"In the last six months alone, our local authorities and Combined Authority have incurred losses of over £350 million in costs and lost income.

"We are already at breaking point. With new restrictions – and who knows for how long they might be needed – our economy and public services may collapse.

“If we do not act now, we will see a legacy of unemployment and ill-health that will cost lives for generations to come.

“So, today, we are calling on the Government to work with us.

“If Government decide that new restrictions are required, they must also provide a comprehensive package of financial support for our economy and our public services.

“And to help us minimise the length of restrictions required, we must secure from the Government an immediate uplift in testing capacity, that matches testing resources to the high level of cases in our region.

“We are fully committed to working in partnership with national government, but we need the right support and resource to help us at a regional level. And we need it now.”