Households in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will be banned from socialising together from midnight on Saturday as the Government announces new measures to stop the localised spread of coronavirus.
The Government said it had agreed the tougher restrictions with local leaders, with residents now being told not to meet with anyone from outside their own household.
Ministers said that ‘despite dedicated local efforts, evidence of rising rates in areas remain’.
But a drop in infection rates in Wigan, Darwen and Rossendale means they will soon be released from local lockdown rules which currently apply to the Greater Manchester area.
Meanwhile, the Government has designated Birmingham as an ‘Area of Enhanced Support’ after a rise in case numbers in the city, with additional testing to be rolled out to determine the extent of infection.
The new rules in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will not prevent people from going shopping, going to work or attending child-care settings including schools which are due to reopen from September 1.
However, they do mean that social activities both indoors and outdoors can only be shared with people who live together.
Residents in the three areas are also being advised to avoid using public transport except for essential travel.
Meanwhile, the number of people who can attend weddings and funerals is recommended to be limited to household members and close family and no more than 20 people.
Local restaurants are being told not to allow walk-ins and to only seat people who have made reservations in advance.
The new rules, which will not apply in the Darwen area of the Blackburn with Darwen Upper Tier Local Authority area, parts of Pendle, in Rossendale or in Wigan, are in addition to the existing ban on indoor gatherings of more than two households in place across parts of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.
Households in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn will be banned from socialising together from midnight on Saturday. Oldham shops are pictured yesterday
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced further local lockdown measures which will apply to residents in Oldham, Blackburn and Pendle
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘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 [in] 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.
‘Remember – if you get any symptoms you can get a free test, and you must isolate if NHS Test and Trace tells you to.’
The decision to impose more stringent restrictions in Oldham, Blackburn and Pendle comes after it emerged yesterday that cases in Oldham had reached 103.1 per 100,000 people during the week ending 13 August.
In Blackburn and Pendle case numbers had reached 95.3 and 75.5 cases respectively.
The sharp rise in cases is in part due to a major increase in testing led by local councils.
The Government said local data suggested the increase in cases is being driven by social mixing between 20-39 year-olds.
Ministers also today announced that Birmingham is being designated as an ‘Area of Enhanced Support’ because coronavirus cases in the city are ‘rising quickly’.
The city currently has 30.2 cases per 100,000 and the percentage of people testing positive is up to 4.3 per cent.
The new designation means Birmingham will now be subject to additional testing, more locally led contact tracing and targeted community engagement.
Mr Hancock is due to hold a meeting with local leaders today to discuss ‘urgent next steps’ which could be required in Birmingham.
Rules prohibiting social gatherings in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicester will now be lifted in Wigan, Rossendale and some parts of Blackburn with Darwen.
Birmingham is not currently on Public Health England’s coronavirus watchlist, which last Friday released its list of 29 hot-spots. Officials announced Newark and Sherwood, home to around 120,000 people, was an ‘area of concern’. Around 26.3 coronavirus cases were diagnosed for every 100,000 people living in the district in the week ending August 11
Official figures show the city of Birmingham’s infection rate has more than doubled over the past fortnight, with around 25 new cases of coronavirus for every 100,000 people — up from just 11 in the first week of August
These areas will align with the rest of England from Wednesday August 26 but the measures will continue to apply elsewhere, with another review scheduled for next week.
The Government’s new approach to drawing up local lockdowns will see councils in areas of ‘National Intervention’ tasked working together in order to propose a plan for a specified area which is experiencing a surge in cases.
Local leaders will be expected to strike a consensus between councils and local MPs with areas where coronavirus is less prevalent expected to be made exempt from restrictions.
A final decision will then be made by the Joint Biosecurity Centre Gold Meeting which will be chaired by Mr Hancock and the Chief Medica Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.