Health Secretary Matt Hancock has banned different households in parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire as well as Greater Manchester from meeting indoors as of midnight tonight.
He said the new lockdown measures – set to affect around four and a half million people – were put in force after repeated rule breaches led to a spike in new coronavirus cases. It is by far the biggest reimposition of restrictions seen yet.
It came amid fears Britain is heading for an early second wave following a surge of infections in European countries including Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia.
Boris Johnson today warned of a resurgence as the UK reported the highest daily total of Covid-19 cases for more than a month. There were 846 new infections, the greatest number recorded since June 28, when there were 901.
Blackburn with Darwen – the worst-hit authority in the country – will be subject to the new rules, as will Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees as well as all of Greater Manchester.
Separate households in the regions are now banned from meeting in any indoor areas – including homes, pubs and restaurants.
Tonight it remained unclear whether venues would have to close indoor spaces entirely, or whether families from the locked-down areas could meet relatives indoors in other parts of the country.
The manner of the late-night announcement was criticised heavily by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who dubbed Mr Hancock’s Twitter statement ‘a new low for the Government’s communication during this crisis.’
People wander down the street in Oldham, Greater Manchester. The town has seen coronavirus cases rise in the area
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has banned households in parts of Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire from meeting indoors from midnight tonight.
Blackburn with Darwen – the worst-hit authority in the country – will be subject to the new rules, as will Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees as well as all of Greater Manchester
People wandered down the street in Oldham, Greater Manchester, today – just hours before the new rules were announced
Boris Johnson (pictured today) today warned of a resurgence as the UK reported the highest daily total of Covid-19 cases for more than a month
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE NEW RULES?
Greater Manchester 2,835,686
Blackburn with Darwen 149,696
Hyndburn – 81,043
Pendle – 92,112
The newly imposed measures are set to throw plans to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha into chaos for hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in the affected regions.
Mr Hancock said: ‘We’re looking at the data and unfortunately we’ve seen across parts of northern England an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.
‘So today I held a meeting of the Government’s Gold Committee and working with local leaders – including for instance Andy Burnham, the mayor Greater Manchester – we’ve decided that we need to take greater action across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
‘So from midnight tonight, we are banning households meeting up indoors.
‘We take this action with a heavy heart but unfortunately it’s necessary because we’ve seen that households meeting up and a lack of social distancing is one of the causes of this rising rate of coronavirus and we will do whatever is necessary to keep the country safe.’
Figures from Public Health England showed that the rates of infection in two of the affected districts were nearly twice as high as the national average.
Bradford recorded 928.6 cases per 100,000 people with Blackburn with Darwen at 922.5 per 100,000. The overall rate for England is 465.4 per 100,000.
Shoppers wear masks in Blackburn, Lancashire on July 24 ahead of new lockdown measures
Blackburn with Darwen – the worst-hit authority in the country – will be subject to the new rule
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: ‘I ask all Greater Manchester residents – young and old alike – to protect each other by observing these new requirements’
He later tweeted a list of what he ‘understands’ the newly imposed measures will include
CORONAVIRUS R RATE ‘IS ABOVE DREADED LEVEL OF ONE IN SOUTH WEST AND SOUTH EAST’
The coronavirus R rate is above the dreaded level of one in the South West and South East of England, according to a projection.
Government scientists say the UK’s reproduction number — the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects — is still between 0.7 and 0.9.
But a team from Cambridge University estimate it could be above one in two regions, and on the brink of passing the level in every part of the country except the Midlands.
It is vital this number stays below one, otherwise the coronavirus outbreak could start to rapidly spiral again as people infect others around them at a faster rate.
Academics analyse figures on deaths and cases, as well as data on how many people have antibodies and social interactions, to make their predictions that feed into SAGE.
According to their model, the R rate is the highest in the South West (1.04) — home to the stay-cation hotspots of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. It is also estimated to be above one in the South East (1.02).
Three other regions — the North West, East and London — have seen a rise in the reproduction rate, which experts say is not an accurate way to measure an outbreak when cases are low.
Scientists blamed the the lifting of lockdown measures, the Daily Telegraph reports. Infectious disease academics warned a spike would be inevitable.
But the Health Secretary is most concerned about the speed at which these infection rates have increased and he said the uptick was partly due to residents ignoring social distancing rules.
Mr Hancock added: ‘Across parts of northern England we’ve seen an increase in the rates of coronavirus and one of the reasons for that increase is that we’ve seen households gathering and not abiding by the social distancing rules.
‘And that means that we’ve had to take the decision to ban households meeting together indoors.’
The new lockdown rules come as:
- Ministers confirmed people who now test positive for coronavirus or have tell-tale symptoms will be told to stay at home for ten days — up from the current seven-day self-isolation period;
- Boris Johnson is set to be add more countries to the UK quarantine list tomorrow;
- Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty want tougher border controls immediately after figures show 1,300 people with Covid-19 entered the UK at the start of the pandemic;
- Holiday giant Tui is closing 166 high street stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the UK’s biggest tour operator announced;
- Up to 21,000 people have died because of unintended consequences of lockdown – many due to a lack of access to healthcare, according to a shocking study.
The lockdown covers a much greater area than Leicester’s, which was imposed on June 29 and will be eased from Monday.
Pubs, cafes, bars and restrautants will reopen in the locked-down city from August 3, Labour MP Liz Kendall announced last night.
People will also be permitted to go on holiday with their own household, but leisure centres, gyms and pools will remain closed.
Those who live within the lockdown boundaries are also still barred from meeting with other households indoors.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: ‘Over recent days, there has been a marked change in the picture across Greater Manchester with regard to the spread of Covid-19.
By the end of May, England had seen the highest overall relative excess mortality out of 21 European countries compared by the Office for National Statistics. But the hardest hit nations were Italy and Spain which suffered the largest spikes
Looking at major cities, the highest peak excess mortality was in Madrid at 432.7 per cent in the week ending March 27. Meanwhile in the UK, Birmingham had the highest peak excess mortality of any major British city at 249.7 per cent in the week ending April 17
ENGLAND SUFFERED THE MOST EXCESS DEATHS IN EUROPE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
England had the highest level of excess deaths in Europe over the coronavirus pandemic, new figures revealed today.
By the end of May, England had seen the highest overall excess deaths — fatalities from all causes that are above the level that would normally be expected — out of 21 European countries compared by the Office for National Statistics.
While other countries had higher spikes in excess deaths between February and June, England had the longest continuous period of elevated mortality rate – meaning it had the highest level of excess deaths overall.
Excess deaths include fatalities from all causes, but they can be used as evidence of how severe coronavirus outbreaks have been – because not all deaths caused by the virus are recorded by authorities.
It was Spain and Italy that suffered the largest spikes in excess deaths, called ‘peaks’, suggesting they faced the hardest hits on the continent.
Bergamo, one of the first places in Europe to go into lockdown, had the highest peak in excess mortality. It saw 847.7 per cent more deaths than usual in the week ending 20 March.
The UK’s highest peak of excess deaths was recorded in Brent, at 357.5 per cent at the height of Britain’s crisis, in the week ending 17 April.
‘We have gone from a falling rate of cases in nearly all of our boroughs last week to a rising rate in nine out of 10 affecting communities across a much wider geography. In Rochdale, the one borough where cases have fallen, they are still too high.
‘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.’
The manner of the late-night announcement was criticised heavily by the Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, who said the sudden statement marked a ‘new low for the Government’s communications during this crisis.’
He noted how when Downing Street concluded its daily briefings regarding the virus in June, ministers promised to still hold conferences for ‘significant announcements.’
‘It’s hard to imagine what could be more significant than this,’ he said.
Taking to Twitter, Mr Starmer added: ‘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.
‘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.’
The manner of the late-night announcement was criticised heavily by Keir Starmer, who said the sudden statement marked a ‘new low for the Government’s communications during this crisis’
Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy added: ‘The Government’s shambolic announcement of local lockdown measures on Twitter tonight is the result of its total failure to deliver the functioning track and trace system it promised the country.
‘Boris Johnson is asleep at the wheel.’
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said the decision is the ‘right’ one.
She tweeted: ‘The UK government is right to act quickly if they think the situation warrants it.
‘But this is a sharp reminder that the threat of this virus is still very real. Please abide by the all FACTS advice and stay safe.’
MP for Oldham, in Greater Manchester, and shadow transport minister Jim McMahon said there needs to be more clarity over what the Government is doing to support those in areas affected by new lockdown restrictions.
He 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.’
Labour MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell tweeted: ‘Trying to get further information about this but it seems two households can no longer meet indoors in GM.
‘Particular concerns in certain boroughs but restrictions applying across GM.’
Mr Johnson last night urged the UK not to ‘delude’ itself into thinking the pandemic was over as he warned of up to 30 places where outbreaks were ‘bubbling up’. The Prime Minister called on the public not to ‘lose focus’.
ARE CASES ON THE UP IN BRITAIN?
Coronavirus cases in Britain have been on the up for a fortnight, according to official figures.
Department of Health statistics show 726 people are testing positive for the life-threatening virus each day, on average. It is 33 per cent higher than the average of 546 recorded exactly three weeks ago, which was the lowest figure since before lockdown.
But the number of Brits being diagnosed with Covid-19 is much lower than what was being recorded during the darkest days of the outbreak in April.
Around 5,000 positive tests were being recorded each day during the height of the crisis — but this is likely to be a massive under-estimate due to a lack of testing. Fewer than 20,000 people were getting swabbed for the virus on a daily basis in April. Now more than 100,000 tests are being processed each day.
The number of coronavirus deaths has barely changed in the past 10 days, with the rolling seven-day average currently standing at 66. For comparison, it was 65 on Tuesday and 64 last Wednesday.
Infected patients can take weeks to die from the coronavirus, meaning any up-tick in cases across the past fortnight may not start trickling through until next week.
Hospital admissions — another marker of an outbreak that go up before deaths — have also barely changed in the past week. Fewer than 100 people are still being admitted in England each day.
However, scientists from King’s College London believe cases could still be on the rise. Data from a symptom-tracking app the team runs estimates 2,110 people are being struck down with the virus each day in the UK — up from 1,884 last week. But the academics believe the outbreak is stable.
Testing figures do not show the true number of people infected because many people catch the virus but never test positive for it, either because they don’t realise they are sick, because they couldn’t get a test, or because their result was wrong.
On a visit to North Yorkshire, Mr Johnson said there would be ‘real consequences’ that would put the economic recovery in jeopardy if the virus was allowed to make a ‘damaging’ comeback.
His cautious message came as Mr Hancock warned that there was a ‘second wave rolling across Europe’ and the country must ‘do everything in our power to stop it reaching our shores’.
Challenged on whether his remarks were risking hysteria at a time when infection levels in the UK are still significantly down from their peak, Mr Hancock told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m the Health Secretary in the middle of a global pandemic, so you’ll excuse me for being concerned about the health of the British people and that is absolutely at the front of my mind.’
Ministers were warned on Thursday not to fuel hysteria over a resurgence in the virus, with Labour MP Chris Bryant saying: ‘It makes me so angry that the Government are so loose with their language. There isn’t a second wave rolling out across Europe.’
Mr Johnson is also coming under pressure from within his own party not to panic over the rise in infection rates.
A group of more than 30 backbenchers led by Henry Smith is expected to send him a letter that calls for the introduction of testing at airports to help travellers reduce the length of time they have to quarantine for if they arrive from an at-risk country.
Lord Lamont, the Tory former chancellor, last night urged ministers not to lose focus on the economic recovery and warned them against taking blanket measures across the whole economy.
He said: ‘The one thing we cannot afford is another total lockdown. The economy has got a long uphill struggle.’ The Daily Mail revealed earlier this week how the Prime Minister is ‘extremely concerned’ about the possibility a second spike of infections could start in the next two weeks.
His remarks in recent days come in stark contrast to his message a fortnight ago when he expressed hope that all social distancing restrictions may be ditched in time for Christmas.
On Thursday Mr Johnson insisted Britain has had ‘massive success’ in bringing down mortality rates but he warned that the country could not rest on its laurels. He said: ‘I have to tell you that we’re looking at a resurgence of the virus in some other European countries, you can see what’s been happening in the United States.
‘So it is absolutely vital as a country we continue to keep our focus and 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.’
Despite the rise in the level of infections, the numbers are still way below the peak on May 1 when 6,201 cases were confirmed in just one day.