New restrictions in northern England due to 'stubbornly high' rise in cases, Hancock says

31 July 2020, 07:39

The Health Secretary told LBC one of the sad things about coronavirus is that it "thrives on social interaction" is
The Health Secretary told LBC one of the sad things about coronavirus is that it "thrives on social interaction" is. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Health Secretary has told LBC restrictions were put in place in Northern England due to a "stubbornly high" rise in Covid-19 infections.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told LBC the coronavirus infection rates started to rise in the community across the north of the country.

His comments come after the Government banned people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.

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.

Read more: Everything you need to know about new restrictions in northern England

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 Health Secretary revealed to LBC there is no "specific number" required to be reached for the Government to impose local lockdown conditions.

He said the rates of new cases has been "going up over the past few weeks, and they've been stubbornly high in some areas."

Nick Ferrari asks Matt Hancock about new lockdown rules in north

Read more: Ban on separate households meeting indoors in parts of northern England

Mr Hancock said this was not confined to areas where the Government had been taking action previously.

"We're starting to see a wider rise in the community across Greater Manchester, east Lancs and parts of West Yorkshire," Mr Hancock said.

"We are worried" that the biggest impact is "meeting other households and home and visiting friends and relatives," the Minister told LBC.

Describing it as a "targeted action" Mr Hancock said there would be no changes in terms of going to work or travel, just around meeting people.

"The disease thrives on social interaction," Mr Hancock said, "that's one of the really sad things about it."

On possible confusion, the Health Secretary said the "vast majority" of the public were following the rules which had been imposed.

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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said the Government was right to take action in the north of England after it became clear that the picture on Covid-19 cases had changed.

He told Sky News: "On the substance, we do accept that these steps are needed. They're modest steps.

"We're asking people not to have visitors at home, if they go to the pub to stick within their own household - steps that hopefully will prevent much more severe restrictions if we take firm action at this time.

"And the reason for it is the picture changed in Greater Manchester over the last week. We're watching the data very, very closely like the Government is.

"So when the Government contacted me to say, 'look we think something is happening here', I could already see that it was and it wasn't just in one locality, there was a change across all of our boroughs and that's why we said to the Government they were right to take quick action."

Household mixing banned in parts of northern England in virus crackdown

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.