A major crackdown has been enforced across Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire following a surge in new COVID-19 cases. In those regions people from two different households will no longer be able to meet indoors – in the biggest tightening of the rules since lockdown restrictions were eased.
Ahead of a press conference later today, the Prime Minister issued a warning about the possibility of a “damaging” second wave of infections after he admitted cases of the deadly virus were “bubbling up” in up to 30 towns.
Mr Johnson said: “There are between ten and 30 places where you are seeing it bubbling up a little bit. I think the country as a whole understands that the best way to deal with this is if we have tough local lockdowns to get it under control in those towns.
“It is absolutely vital that as a country we continue to keep our focus and our discipline and that we don’t delude ourselves that somehow we’re out of the woods or that this is all over, because it isn’t all over.
“The most important thing we can do is stop a second wave, a really damaging second wave, which will have real consequences.”
The restrictions in the north were suddenly announced late last night by Health Secretary Matt Hancock who stressed the need for “immediate action” in order to contain the outbreak.
In the UK figures showed the seven-day average of new cases had increased to just over 700, compared to around 550 in the second week of July.
Areas with the highest case rates per 100,000 people are Blackburn with Darwen on 83.3, Leicester 57.7, Oldham 53.1, Bradford 44.9 and Trafford 39.3, according to NHS Digital statistics.
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Shadow business minister Lucy Powell described the way the Government announced the new Coronavirus restrictions on parts of northern England as a “disaster”.
Speaking on Times Radio, the MP for Manchester Central said: “I mean announcing them two hours before they come into effect is a bit of a bolt out of the blue.
“With no one around to be able to answer some of the basic questions, I really think is not the way to build confidence and to take people with you and maximise compliance with these steps.”
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Matt Hancock said the Government had to apply measures across all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs as the virus was spreading more widely than in the local areas where specific action had already been taken.
He told Sky News: “We absolutely looked at what was the right geography for this decision.
“Unfortunately we have seen an increase in the number of cases in Trafford and we also work with the local authority, and local authorities within Greater Manchester including the mayor, and took the decision to apply this across the whole of Greater Manchester.
“The reason for that is we’ve seen these increases across the board in Greater Manchester as well as the other areas that are affected.
“And also the problem was that we had taken more targeted, more specific local action, for instance in Oldham and Blackburn.
“But we could see that it was spreading more widely than that so we had to take the action that we did.”
8.05am update: Hancock reiterates the importance to ‘move quickly’ following restrictions in the north
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended the Government’s decision to impose new restrictions on parts of the north of England and stressed the need for immediate action.
Mr Hancock told Sky News: “We made the announcement last night, we are moving quickly in some circumstances and I think that’s very important and it’s one of the things that when you face a pandemic like this, it is important sometimes to move quickly, if that’s what’s needed.”