MERSEYSIDE’s political leaders are braced for a potential announcement on further coronavirus lockdown restrictions – and have sent a message to the Government calling for support.

Political leaders, including St Helens Council’s David Baines, are among those who believe the existing measures could be tightened.

There are reports that the region could follow the North East where the Government has brought in new restrictions, which ban different households from mixing in any indoor setting, including pubs, bars and restaurants.

Currently people in St Helens and the rest of Merseyside are banned from mixing with other households in private homes and gardens.

They are only advised not to socialise with others in public venues.

However, with the infection rate soaring in St Helens and surrounding areas, including Knowlsey and Liverpool, political leaders expect further measures will follow.

In a joint statement today, the leaders of the Liverpool City Region - including St Helens Council’s David Baines - said that they understand why more restrictions may be needed.

But they voiced fears about the dangers the region's economy face if a government funding support package is not forthcoming.

The statement, issued by the City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, read: “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.”