Ban on separate households meeting indoors in parts of northern England

30 July 2020, 21:44 | Updated: 30 July 2020, 23:51

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement on Thursday
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement on Thursday. Picture: PA

Separate households will be banned from meeting indoors in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire from midnight tonight, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Mr Hancock made the announcement on Thursday evening after the number of coronavirus cases in the area rose.

The new rules, which were introduced following a spike in virus cases, will also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, however 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.

The areas included in the ban are Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was among those calling for clarity over the new rules, and said "announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said "his understanding" was that they meant no visitors to homes or gardens, and that "you can go to the pub but stay within your household/bubble."

Speaking to the media, the Health Secretary said: "We're constantly vigilant and we've been looking at the data and unfortunately we've seen across parts of Northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.

"So today I held a meeting of the Government's Gold Committee and working with local leaders including for instance Andy Burnham the mayor of Greater Manchester, we've decided that we need to take action across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.

"So from midnight tonight, we are banning households meeting up indoors.

"We take this action with a heavy heart, but unfortunately it's necessary, because we've seen that households meeting up and a lack of social distancing is one of the causes of this rising rate of coronavirus, and we'll do whatever is necessary to keep the country safe."

Asked why the action had been taken, Mr Hancock said: "Across parts of northern England we've seen an increase in the rates of coronavirus, and one of the reasons for that increase is that we've seen households gathering and not abiding by the social distancing rules, and that means we've had to take the decision to ban households meeting together indoors in order to try and stop the spread of the virus because we'll do whatever is necessary to keep the country safe."

Calling for clarity, Sir Keir wrote: "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.

"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.

"For all the bluster, government has failed to deliver a functioning track and trace system that would spot local flare ups like these.

"The people of Greater Manchester now need urgent clarity and explanation from the government - and there must be proper support for those businesses and people affected by any lockdown."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham urged residents to "protect each other by observing these new requirements" and said despite rates falling in some areas, they are "still too high."

He said in a statement: "Over recent days, there has been a marked change in the picture across Greater Manchester with regard to the spread of Covid-19.

"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 ten affecting communities across a much wider geography. In Rochdale, the one borough where cases have fallen, they are still too high.

"We have always said that we will remain vigilant and be ready to respond quickly should the need arise. In line with that approach, I have agreed with the Health Secretary that it is right to act on the precautionary principle and introduce modest measures now to bring down the rate of new infections.

People shopping in Oldham, the town in Greater Manchester has seen cases of coronavirus rise in the area
People shopping in Oldham, the town in Greater Manchester has seen cases of coronavirus rise in the area. Picture: PA

"I ask all Greater Manchester residents - young and old alike - to protect each other by observing these new requirements. They will be reviewed weekly; meaning the more we stick to them, the quicker they will be removed.

"This is a place which prides itself on looking out for each other. We now need to be true to that by not acting selfishly and keeping the health of others in mind at all times."

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow secretary for work and pensions and MP in the Greater Manchester area, tweeted: "We got the figures this morning and 9 out of the 10 GM Boroughs are showing an increase in infections, including in Tameside where positive tests per 100,000 population has gone from 4.9 to 16.3."

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said the decision to ban households in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire from meeting indoors is the "right" one.

She tweeted: "The UK government is right to act quickly if they think the situation warrants it.

"But this is a sharp reminder that the threat of this virus is still very real. Please abide by the all #FACTS advice and stay safe."

MP for Oldham, in Greater Manchester, and shadow transport minister Jim McMahon said there needs to be more clarity over what the Government is doing to support those in areas affected by new lockdown restrictions.

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He tweeted: "On the face of it, for Oldham borough residents this is the same restriction announced already this week, replicated in further areas.

"As well as publishing a list, I'm sure all of us would welcome the Government adding what more they will do to support us, jobs and our economy."

Labour MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell tweeted: "Trying to get further information about this but it seems two households can no longer meet indoors in GM.

"Particular concerns in certain boroughs but restrictions applying across GM."

Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax in West Yorkshire and shadow immigration minister, tweeted: "I appreciate people will be apprehensive tonight about the renewed lockdown measures across Calderdale + other parts of the country.

"I am disappointed to say that like you, I have had no further detail at all from Government, but let's make this work + stay safe."

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