OUR region's new coronavirus rules are unfair and they are having a crushing impact on businesses which have stayed open, according to an influential Wirral business group.

Paula Basnett, Wirral Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, put out an emphatic statement as the borough's businesses feel the pinch of new rules brought in yesterday.

The Liverpool City Region, which includes Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton, is the only part of England to have been put under the most severe 'Tier Three' restrictions so far.

Under this category, pubs, casinos, adult gaming centres, betting shops and gyms must close.

Speaking about the harm being done to firms in Wirral, Ms Basnett said: "We know from our conversations with our businesses across Wirral that time is running out. From cashflow to capacity, they need an expansive funding package to help at the very least cover their incurring costs.

"For our businesses who can remain open, the heightened restrictions are suffocating footfall across Wirral. Particularly within our hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions."

Ms Basnett said the problems caused by restrictions go beyond money.

She added: "To be clear, we feel that the impact of the additional lockdown measures since the start of the year have had a disproportionate impact on our hospitality sector.

"Furthermore, the mental health of its thousands of Wirral workers. This is not fair."

The rationale for the new rules is that the city region as a whole has a very high coronavirus infection rate of over 500 per 100,000, with hotspots including Liverpool at 683 and Knowsley at 726, and some of the region’s hospitals are being pushed to the brink by new Covid-19 admissions.

This pressure is something which has not yet been experienced in other areas with high infection rates, such as Nottingham.

Wirral Chamber's chief executive acknowledged that Tier Three rules were in place to protect the health of the city region, but accused the government of giving the north a rough deal in terms of its support measures.

Ms Basnett said: "The Government needs to do less talking and more listening to our local leaders who have a greater understanding into the local impact on the economy.

"We absolutely agree with Steve Rotheram [Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor] and all our city region leaders, you cannot lockdown the north on the cheap."

In recent days, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has criticised the government’s 67% wage support offer to workers in industries affected by the new rules, calling it "inadequate" as it risks pushing low paid employees below the national minimum wage.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that a furloughed employee in their late 20s, privately renting and working 35 hours per week on minimum wage could pick up over 90% of their original salary by claiming Universal Credit on top of the 67% wage support.

But Ms Basnett said businesses need better support.

In a rallying call, she outlined four areas in which local firms need a better deal.

Certainty: They want to know precisely what, where and when any measures are put in place. Delivered in a clear and concise manner to enable them to forward plan.

Fairness: They wanted to be treated with the respect they deserve as wealth and job creators with a consistent approach in supporting all sectors.

Funding: They need the funding they deserve to protect livelihoods and their businesses from going under.

Future Investment: Fundamentally they need confidence that in the future they will receive the investment they will need to bounce back and trigger a new economic uplift.