Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn avoid full lockdown as tougher restrictions introduced

21 August 2020, 12:49

Oldham has narrowly avoided a full lockdown, the Government has confirmed
Oldham has narrowly avoided a full lockdown, the Government has confirmed. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn have escaped full lockdowns but households will be banned from socialising all settings, the health secretary has announced.

Matt Hancock said the tough new restrictions were necessary to significantly reduce the Covid-19 infection rate in areas of Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

From midnight on Saturday, local residents in the three areas will be asked not to socialise with anyone from outside their household in any setting, but shops and workplaces will remain open.

The new rules do not prevent people from going shopping, going to work or attending child-care settings including schools, but it does mean any social activities can only be shared with people from the same household.

However, restrictions in Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen have been fully eased in line with the rest of England.

Households will be banned from meeting with each other from Satuday
Households will be banned from meeting with each other from Satuday. Picture: PA Images

Mr Hancock told reporters: “To prevent a second peak and keep Covid-19 under control, we need robust, targeted intervention where we see a spike in cases.

"The only way we can keep on top of this deadly virus is through decisive action led by the people who know their areas best, wherever possible through consensus with a local area.

“Working with local leaders we agreed further action Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn. It is vital that everyone in these areas follow the advice of their councils, and abide by their local rules carefully.

“Our approach is to make the action we take as targeted as possible, with the maximum possible local consensus. To do that we are introducing a new process to increase engagement between local leaders, both councils and MPs, with the aim of taking as targeted action as possible.

"This will allow local councils to focus resources onto the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down, and gives local people a stronger voice at the table."

Andy Burnham on introduction of second lockdown in Greater Manchester

The leader of Oldham Council Sean Fielding tweeted that he had "reached an agreement" to avoid full economic lockdown and increase testing capacity.

He also confirmed it will be asking people to avoid any unnecessary journeys on public transport.

Currently in all other boroughs in Greater Manchester, mixing indoors between two households remains forbidden.

If caught at another person's home or garden, the rule-breakers can expect a fine of up to £3,200.

The changes signal a shift in strategy by the Government and local leaders, who want to impose restrictions on smaller boroughs instead of blanket measures on whole parts of the North.

Oldham West and Royton MP, Jim McMahon, said that people "must accept that this virus is going to be with us for another year or more".

He told reporters: "We need greater support for our workers, so they can self-isolate when required to do so.

"There needs to be greater protection in the workplace so that those in high-risk jobs are as safe as possible and that means more inspections, not just to clamp down on those flouting the rules but to offer advice and guidance to others.

"This should be supported by regular workplace testing for our transport staff, security staff, care workers, retail workers and those working in warehouses and factories."

In other areas on England, Northampton has been added to the Government's 'area of intervention' list and Birmingham has been designated an 'area of enhanced support'.

Mr Hancock said he will be meeting with local council leaders and the mayor of the West Midlands today to discuss urgent next steps.

He also confirmed that legislation would be brought forward to impose fines on those who break their two-week isolation period.