Coronavirus: Home visits banned in parts of northern England
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Separate households have been banned from meeting each other indoors in Greater Manchester and parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire following a spike in coronavirus cases.
The health secretary said the increase in transmission was “largely due” to people not observing social distancing.
Labour criticised the government for a lack of clarity over the measures and for announcing them “late at night”.
More details were published two hours after the initial announcement.
The new local lockdown rules come nearly four weeks after restrictions were eased across England, allowing people to meet indoors for the first time since late March.
More than four million residents of Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees will be affected by the tightening of restrictions.
The measures, which came into force at midnight, mean different households will not be allowed to meet in homes or private gardens. Individual households will still be able to go to pubs and restaurants but not mix with another household.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, also said the same restrictions would apply in Leicester, where a local lockdown has been in place for the last month.
However, pubs, restaurants and other facilities will be allowed to reopen in the city from Monday, as some of the stricter measures are lifted.
Mr Hancock, who tweeted the announcement at 21:16 BST on Thursday, said: “The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas.
“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of Covid across Europe and are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.”
The government said it would give police forces and councils powers to enforce the new rules – adding some exemptions would be put in place, including for the vulnerable.
It acknowledged the measures would “come as a blow” to Muslim communities preparing to celebrate Eid this weekend, although places of worship remain open subject to social distancing rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the move but criticised the way it was handled, saying announcing measures “affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis”.
He added: “When the government ended the daily press conferences, they said they would hold them for ‘significant announcements’, including local lockdowns. It’s hard to imagine what could be more significant than this.”
The latest announcement in detail:
-People in Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Leicester cannot mix with other households (apart from those in their support bubbles) in private homes or gardens
-People in those areas can only go to pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues with other members of their household
-From Monday in Leicester, restaurants, cafes, bars and hairdressers can open but leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed
-Cinemas and museums will also be able to open in Leicester from Monday and religious ceremonies will be able to take place
-The borough of Oadby and Wigston on the outskirts of Leicester is taken out of local lockdown
-Also, gyms and leisure centres will remain closed in Blackburn, but they will be able to reopen in Luton – both towns saw the lifting of restrictions paused last week
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester – an area with a population of about 2.8 million – said he agreed with the decision as there had been a “marked change in the picture” with regard to the spread of Covid-19 in the area.
“We have gone from a falling rate of cases in nearly all of our boroughs last week to a rising rate in nine out of 10 affecting communities across a much wider geography,” he said. “In Rochdale, the one borough where cases have fallen, they are still too high.”
He said all residents “young and old alike” should “protect each other” by observing the requirements, which will be reviewed weekly.
This means “the more we stick to them, the quicker they will be removed”, he said.
Some local Conservative MPs questioned the government’s decision to apply the measures to the whole of Greater Manchester, which includes 10 local authority areas – Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.
William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove in Stockport, tweeted that Greater Manchester was “not one homogeneous area” and treating all 10 boroughs the same was “not the right approach”.
His view was supported by Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who added that the “latest update for Trafford says ‘infections continue to be at a low level'”.
In Trafford, latest figures show the seven-day infection rate of Covid-19 was 38 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending 26 July. The average in England was five.
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