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UK government criticised for bringing in new Covid-19 restrictions for north England 'late last night'

Households in Manchester, east Lancashire and West Yorkshire have been banned from meeting each other after a spike in cases.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a Cabinet meeting.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a Cabinet meeting.
Image: PA

THE UK GOVERNMENT has been criticised for announcing new coronavirus restrictions on parts of the north west England just hours before they came into force.

The stricter lockdown measures, announced on Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s Twitter at around 9pm and later posted online, mean households in north England are not able to mix with other households after a spike in virus cases.

Households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire have been banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens.

The household mixing restrictions will also apply in Leicester, which has seen the first so-called local lockdown since June, but other measures in the city will be eased. From Monday restaurants, cafes, bars and hairdressers can reopen – but leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed.

On Saturday, Luton will be brought in line with the rest of the country after “significant progress”, the British government said.

The new rules also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

The government said it will give police forces and councils powers to enforce the new rules – adding that some exemptions will be put in place, including for the vulnerable.

matt-hancock-nhs-speech Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivers a speech on the future of the NHS at the Royal College of Physicians. Source: Jonathan Brady via PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “households gathering and not abiding by the social-distancing rules” was a reason for the stricter rules, announced late last night, and that the move was in order to “keep the country safe”.

Criticism 

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, while also welcoming the measures, criticised the Government’s handling of communicating the change to the public.

In a tweet, he said: “No one would argue with putting in place local action to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.

But announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.

Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East where restrictions were introduced on 29 June, said: “If you are confused by the Govt message in relation to #LeicesterLockdown don’t worry you are not alone as the good people of Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire & East Lancashire are confused too.

Don’t worry if you missed it the Govt announcement was made on Twitter!!

Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel said: “Government gave information very late and with a lack of clarity to local councils, MPs and it seems within the Department of Health.

The lack of planning and clarity of what to do in different scenarios is breathtaking. Surely they planned these scenarios out!

Before the announcement was made, Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said that he did not have “a clue what’s going on”.

He said: “I don’t even know who’s taking the decision and they certainly don’t involve anybody who knows anything about our city.”

Scottish National party MP Dr Philippa Whitford said: “Do you seriously think this is the way to announce such a huge #Lockdown – 10 o’clock at night to start at midnight?

“What about all those who aren’t on Twitter? Maybe if you hadn’t stopped COVID-19 daily updates – but then again, you’d have to try to talk sense!”

The move comes as celebrations take place for the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha, which started on yesterday evening and continues over the weekend, and after the Government reimposed quarantine measures for those arriving in the UK from Spain and Luxembourg.

The spike in cases

In 13 of the 19 affected local authority areas affected, the rate of Covid-19 in the seven days to 27 July has gone up, with 1,536 cases recorded across all the areas in the space of a week.

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Blackburn with Darwen tops the list as the rate has risen from 83.3 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 20 July to 89.3 in the seven days to 27 July. A total of 133 new cases have been recorded.

Leicester is in second place, where the seven-day rate has fallen from 67.8 to 60.2, with 214 new cases.

Oldham in Greater Manchester has seen its seven-day rate increase from 23.3 to 54.3, with 128 new cases, while in Pendle, Lancashire the rate went from 27.4 to 42.7, with 39 new cases.

In Trafford, Greater Manchester the seven-day rate is up from 15.2 to 41.0, with 97 new cases and in Calderdale, West Yorkshire – which includes the town of Halifax, the rate is up from 20.9 to 33.8, with 71 new cases.

The new restrictions apply to the whole of Greater Manchester, which includes the 10 local authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.

Parts of east Lancashire are affected including Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle (which includes the towns of Colne and Nelson) and Rossendale.

Parts of West Yorkshire including Bradford, Calderdale (which includes the town of Halifax) and Kirklees (which includes the town of Huddersfield) are also impacted.

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