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Virus curbs widen England’s north-south gorge, touching hostility

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) – Liverpool, the English port city that gave the world the Beatles, weathered decades of industrial decline before becoming a famous symbol of urban renewal. Now the coronavirus is jeopardizing the city’s hard-won revival and increasing tensions between the north of England and the richer south.

The scar of abandoned buildings and government neglect in the 1980s brought Liverpool back to life by promoting local culture, nightlife, football and ties to the Fab Four. However, the Liverpudlians retained their distrust of London politicians, and the virus pandemic has brought it to the surface.

As the first area of ​​England was hit with severe new restrictions to curb the resurgence of coronavirus that has closed pubs and threatened thousands of jobs, Liverpool once again feel it is being punished by policies made in Britain̵

7;s capital, 290 kilometers south .

“In the beginning, when we all went into lockdown, it made sense. We did it all for a reason, and that was fine, ”said pub owner Fiona Hornsby, who reluctantly closed her Bridewell bar in line with new business and socialization brakes introduced by the government this week.

With the complex localized constraints “it is almost as if we are being separated, divided. It does not feel right at all, ”she said.

Liverpool is not alone. As a patchwork of city- and region-specific initiatives replace the UK’s nationwide lockdown, the pandemic has highlighted the gap in prosperity and health between the relatively affluent south of England and the post-industrial north, which also includes the cities of Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds.

Manchester – once an engine of the industrial revolution and now a hub of Britain’s music and creative industries – is also likely to fall under the government’s new constraints. Mayor Andy Burnham is enduring more financial support before giving his consent.

Burnham, a member of the Labor Party’s left-wing opposition party at national level, accused the government on Thursday of treating people in the north of England as ‘second-class citizens’ by imposing a punitive lockdown without proper support for the people and businesses affected. . ”

When the coronavirus first hit the UK this year, the government asked everyone except key workers to stay home and ordered most businesses to close. The wide-ranging shutdown slowed the spread of the virus, but not before the country received Europe’s highest death toll on COVID-19. It currently stands at more than 43,200, although all such official figures are likely to be underestimated.

The rise in newly confirmed cases since shops, restaurants and other businesses reopened during the summer, and students returned to schools and universities in the autumn, is more erratic than Britain’s first wave; infection rates are currently much higher in the north of England than in the south.

In response, the British government this week adopted a three-tier system that ranks cities and regions in England as medium, high or very high risk. Only the Liverpool region of 1.6 million people was immediately placed in the upper tier, requiring pubs to close and prevent households from interfering.

Authorities in the north of England agree on the need to act. With more than 600 cases per. 100,000 people and its intensive care units, which are 90% full, Liverpool is one of Europe’s hardest hit cities at this stage of the pandemic.

But there is also anger over what many see as the government moving too fast to lift national restrictions and failing to create an effective test-and-tracking system to contain new outbreaks.

“The embers of the infection were never extinguished and they burned up brighter here than they did elsewhere in the country,” said Paul Brant, a member of the Labor Party in Liverpool City Council.

“Unfortunately, the politics of this country are all too often directed as a result of what is happening in the capital rather than the local conditions that are taking place here in the north,” Brant said.

Liverpool’s public officials will have more influence in controlling the city’s outbreaks, an exit strategy to lift restrictions and the money to compensate for years of government cuts in government that have left public services in Britain’s less affluent areas.

The north-south tensions that the pandemic stirred up are never far from the surface. David Jeffrey, an associate professor of British politics at the University of Liverpool, said Liverpool’s 1980s clash over money and politics with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government fostered a ” them versus us’ narrative “against London.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a conservative like Thatcher, is particularly unpopular in the city. Natives of Liverpool, commonly known as Scousers, still remember that a magazine that Johnson edited many years ago accused them of “overturning” themselves as victims.

“In Liverpool, this idea of ​​’Scousers does not connect the Tories’ to trust in the government and their corona message,” Jeffrey said, “so if there is no confidence in the government’s competence, people will not follow the rules.”

Video footage showing young people celebrating in the city street with little regard for social distance on Tuesday night, hours before the new restrictions took hold, drove home that point.

Before the pandemic, this image would have been seen as a sign of the city’s success. Liverpool’s quays on the River Mersey, left behind when ships moved elsewhere in the late 20th century, have been regenerated with restaurants and museums, including an international slavery museum and a Tate art gallery.

Four universities provide the city with a young, vibrant population, and Premier League football teams Liverpool and Everton support thousands of jobs. Tourists come from all over the world to see the houses where the city’s most famous sons, the Beatles, grew up and the Cavern Club, where they honed their craft.

All that is on hold now.

“Football, nightlife, people entering the city – it’s all gone,” said John Ambrose, a Beatles-themed Fab4 Taxi Tours guide. “We used to do about 4,000 trips a year. We probably only did about 12% of it this year. ”

The government’s scientific advisers have suggested that the current restrictions may not be sufficient and that even tougher measures, perhaps a total shutdown, will be needed to bring the outbreak under control.

Some fear that the gains in northern cities like Liverpool and Manchester could be undone.

“Liverpool struggled, everyone struggled to get into a position now that we were all actually looking forward to 2020,” said John Hughes, head of local industrial group Liverpool Pubwatch. “But the situation we are in now is that we are coming back to the dark days of the ’80s.”

Local business owners say the support offered by the government – to pay two-thirds of the wages of workers in companies forced to close – is not enough to prevent widespread adversity this winter.

“I think if they came up and talked to us, actually came and talked to us, they might understand and think about things a little bit differently,” said pub owner Hornsby, who has fired 20 employees. “But they do not, do they?”


Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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