Footfall in Liverpool has plunged to levels last seen at the end of the national lockdown in the summer, in the week since it became the first city to be placed into the government’s highest tier of Covid-19 restrictions.

The areas of Liverpool and Merseyside were the first regions in the UK to go into the government’s Tier 3 restrictions last week, and the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) says the effect on footfall has been rapid and pronounced. 

Since the restrictions were put in place, footfall in the city centre fell 10% week on week, meaning 100,000 fewer people have visited since Tier 3 restrictions came into effect. That drop increased to 20%, or 200,000 visits, over the weekend. 

The area had already been operating under wider restrictions than the rest of the UK since September 22, which in itself precipitated a 30% drop in footfall overnight. 

As a result, footfall in the city centre is down 54% year on year, down from its high recovery point of -25% year on year in the week commencing August 24. 

For comparison, when non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen following the national lockdown on June 15, footfall was down in the city centre 60%. 

Liverpool BID company chief executive Bill Addy said: “We’ve seen a marked drop in footfall that’s taken us back to the levels we were at when retail and hospitality reopened in July. Liverpool’s is an incredibly mixed-use city centre and there’s a lot of reasons why people come to the city centre – to shop, to eat out, to work, visit a cultural venue or attraction or just for a breather.

“The rapid bounceback in footfall in July, August and September does give you a sense of confidence that the pull of the city centre hasn’t diminished; once the restrictions are lifted people will want to come back and will come back.

“The challenge for right now is making sure that the businesses in the city centre that are able to stay open are not struggling and that people know they are open. The festive period is incredibly important for our retail businesses and we’re working closely with city centre businesses on plans for the festive season.”

The government confirmed details of its tiered Local Covid Alert Levels system in England last week, with numerous restrictions for businesses in the highest tier. In Tier 3 regions, all pubs and bars not serving “substantial meals” must close and people from separate households are not allowed to meet outdoors or indoors. 

Boris Johnson said last week the tiered system was designed to “avoid the misery of a second lockdown” but the approach has been criticised by Labour and business groups.

The Liverpool data will come as a blow to retailers and shopping centre operators across not just the north of England but the rest of the country as well. 

Lancashire was moved into the government’s third tier of restrictions last Friday, while yesterday Greater Manchester was forced into the restrictions having failed to reach an agreement on business support with the government. 

Today, South Yorkshire – including towns and cities such as Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham – was informed it would become the latest region to be placed in Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday.