Local MPs call for clarity amid confusion over new local restrictions in northern England

30 July 2020, 23:35

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

By Megan White

Local MPs have urged the Government to provide clarity over new restrictions imposed on towns in the north of England amid confusion over what the rules mean.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced suddenly on Thursday evening that "immediate action" was needed across Greater Manchester and parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire to keep people safe.

The stricter lockdown measures mean members of different households will not be able to meet indoors from midnight tonight.

But many are still unsure if this means households are able to meet in other settings, such as in pubs or restaurants.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also joined the call for clarity, 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."

He 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."

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, who is Labour MP for Wigan, said she had been told that the restrictions were not limited to indoor spaces.

"Told tonight this applies to homes AND gardens but you can still visit public spaces where social distancing measures are in place," she tweeted.

"People will have a lot of questions and we are pressing for more information quickly.

"It is really hard but please follow advice and stay safe."

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, said the news had led to "many questions".

"My understanding is that this is a precautionary measure to stop people going to other households," she said.

"It doesn't affect other activities like travel, childcare, going to work, hairdressers etc."

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted: "Lot of people asking for clarity on the Government's announcement. Our understanding is:

"- no visitors to your home or garden from tonight

"- you can go to the pub but stay within your household/bubble

"- further openings planned for 1/8 on hold

"Everything else remains as is."

Mr Hancock said the restrictions would cover the whole of Greater Manchester, as well as the east Lancashire boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale and Hyndburn.

Residents in the West Yorkshire areas of Bradford, Calderdale - which includes the town of Halifax - and Kirklees - which includes the town of Huddersfield - are also affected.

Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax and shadow immigration minister, said she was "disappointed" at the lack of information.

"I appreciate people will be apprehensive tonight about the renewed lockdown measures across Calderdale and other parts of the country," she said.

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

Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West & Royton, 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."

Mr Burnham urged locals to remain "vigilant" and protect one another.

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

"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.

"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."